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Australia shares extend losses as growth fears rattle global markets; NZ nearly flat

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended lower on Wednesday, with financial and mining stocks leading losses as investors remained cautious due to slowing global growth and the ongoing war.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 per cent or 15.1 points to close at 5,843.700, having lost 0.5 per cent the previous day.

Globally sentiment was hurt by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cutting its world economic growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020 due to weakness in Europe and some emerging markets.

The IMF also said failure to resolve trade tensions could potentially further destabilise a slowing global economy.

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A Financial Times report saying that the Trump administration turned down an offer by Chinese representatives to visit the United States for preparatory trade talks also fed the anxiousness over Sino-U.S. relations.

However, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow's denial of the report provided some relief.

Energy stocks fell 1.5 per cent to close at their lowest since Jan. 14 after oil prices slid 2 per cent overnight before recovering some ground in early trade.

Australia's No 2 indepedent gas producer Santos Ltd , due to report fourth-quarter production on Thursday, dropped 1.5 per cent, while its sector peer Oil Search lost 1.1 per cent.

The financial index fell 0.6 per cent with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group easing 0.4 per cent, while its "Big Four" banking peer and larger rival Westpac Banking Corp lost 0.6 per cent, sinking to its lowest close in over two weeks.

The metals and mining index extended losses for a third consecutive session, declining 0.6 per cent.

BHP Group lost 0.4 per cent, while rival Rio Tinto shed 0.5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed nearly flat, or 8.6 points lower, to finish the session at 9,106.03.

Fuel distributor Z Energy Ltd was the top percentage gainer, rising 2.6 per cent, while Synlait Milk Ltd was the top per centage loser, falling 3.2 per cent.