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Australia: Shares fall as China data weighs on miners, energy firms; New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Tuesday with miners and energy stocks dragging the index as China's factory activity grew at a slower-than-expected pace, dampening investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.7 per cent, or 42.6 points, to 6,316.90 by 0127 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.4 per cent on Monday.

Factory activity in China expanded for a second straight month in April but at a much slower pace, as the world's second-largest economy struggles to gain a firm footing.

The unexpected loss of momentum at the start of the second quarter followed upbeat data in March, which had raised hopes that China's economy was stabilising.

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Aussie shares are also coming off an 11-year peak scaled on Friday where it posted its best weekly performance since early February.

Investors booked profits on index heavyweights including mining behemoth BHP Group and its rival Rio Tinto , which fell 1.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

The Aussie metals and mining index fell to its lowest level since Feb 15 with a dip in copper prices weighing on the index.

A more than one percent fall in shares of gold miner Newcrest Mining also pushed the index lower. The company reported a 5 per cent fall in its third quarter gold production.

Political uncertainty is also weighing on sentiment in Australia, weeks ahead of the May 18 election. Prime Minister Scott Morrison clashed with opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten on Monday over tax, climate change and national security in a televised debate hours after a poll showed the race narrowing.

"People are a little bit cautious about what a possible Labor government could mean for Australia. Some of the policies have been talked about in terms of the treatment of dividends which is definitely being seen as a negative for the stock market overall," said Damien Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

Energy stocks extended their red streak into a fifth consecutive session, despite a rebound in oil prices on Monday.

Shares of oil explorers Santos and Woodside Petroleum shed 1.4 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

Gold stocks shed 0.8 percent as record intraday highs on the US benchmark S&P 500 index prompted investors to pull investments from gold and into higher yielding assets.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.2 per cent, or 18.53 points, to 10,031.3.

New Zealand-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group firmed 0.4 per cent each.

REUTERS