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Australia, NZ: Shares fall following Wall Steet slump

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped in thin trade on Wednesday, as a sharp fall on Wall Street reduced risk appetite and pushed investors to the sidelines.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent or 33.2 points to 5,799.9 by 0114 GMT. The benchmark added 0.7 per cent on Tuesday.

All three major US stock indexes slumped on Tuesday, as concerns about regulation of social media and autonomous vehicles led to a sell-off in technology shares.

"The negative sentiment we saw around highly valued (US) tech stocks appears to have flown through into trading today,"said Michael McCarthy, Chief Market Strategist at brokerage CMC Markets.

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The low volumes indicated investors were waiting for further developments on international trade tensions, as well as European and US inflation data, he added.

Mirroring their US counterparts, technology shares were among the worst performing sectors locally.

The Australian information technology index fell as much as 1.7 per cent, with online accounting firm Xero Ltd tumbling 2.1 per cent to a more than two-week low, while software designer Altium Ltd declined nearly 2.2 per cent.

Materials also contributed to the losses, with BHP, the world's biggest miner, down 0.8 per cent, while South32 fell 1.5 per cent.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto traded 0.4 per cent lower. Rio on Tuesday announced the sale of its remaining Australian coal asset to private equity manager EMR Capital and Indonesia's Adaro Energy Tbk for US$2.25 billion.

"Some pressure on commodities prices is coming into play in the Australian market today, in paticular falls in copper, oil, and iron ore overnight are weighing on the materials sector and energy sector," said Mr McCarthy.

Woodside Petroleum, Australia's biggest independent gas and oil producer fell 1.1 per cent, while Oil Search dropped 1.8 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage loss in almost four-weeks.

Financial stocks were also under pressure, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia ticking down 0.6 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd fell 0.9 per cent to a near one-and-a-half-year low.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell about 1.4 per cent or 119.89 points to 8,388.23, its lowest in nearly three-weeks.

Consumer staples accounted for nearly half the losses, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company slumping 7.2 per cent.

Subscription television provider SKY Network Television Ltd was the biggest percentage loser on the benchmark as it plunged 7.9 per cent after announcing that it may lose its Rugby World Cup broadcast bid.

New Zealand business sentiment deteriorated in March even as firms' outlook for their own activity improved, an ANZ Bank survey showed on Wednesday.

REUTERS