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Australia shares fall as gold miners tumble; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed lower on Wednesday, pressured by a drop in gold miners, while investors waited for progress on trade talks between the United States and China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed early gains, to fall 0.6 per cent, or 36.90 points, to 6,660.20 at the close of trade. The benchmark had risen 0.2 per cent on Tuesday.

Washington and Beijing are working to narrow their differences enough to sign a "phase one" trade deal as early as this month, but the venue for signing the deal was not yet finalised.

"There's a tentative deal, but until something is put on paper and signed, investors are still going to be a little cautious in buying," said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec.

"For now, there's a little bit of optimism, but it's not shooting the lights out by any means."

Gold stocks plunged 2.4 per cent to hit a four-and-a-half month low after spot prices tumbled more than 2 per cent overnight amid expectations that the United States might drop tariffs on some Chinese imports.

Newcrest Mining Ltd closed down 2.6 per cent, while Northern Star Resources shed 2.4 per cent.

Smaller miners, such as Saracen Mineral Holdings, St Barbara Ltd and Regis Resources fell between 1.4 per cent and 3 per cent.

Mr Daghlian also said that investors were awaiting October trade data out of China on Friday and inflation data a day later. China is Australia's largest trading partner and weakness in Beijing's economy has potential to spill over into trade.

Financial stocks, down 0.2 per cent, were dragged by Medibank Private Ltd's 8.5 per cent fall after the insurer reported it experienced higher-than-expected claims since August, and said it expected the trend to continue into the rest of 2019.

Adding pressure, Bank of Queensland tumbled 4.3 per cent as the stock traded ex-dividend.

Healthcare stocks fell more than 1 per cent, with heavyweight CSL Ltd dropping 0.9 per cent, while Cochlear Ltd lost 1.9 per cent.

US-based medical equipment maker Resmed Inc lost 3.5 per cent as the company's shares traded ex-dividend.

Capping losses in markets, mining giant BHP Group added 1.5 per cent, while manganese and aluminium miner South32 Ltd rose 2.7 per cent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8 per cent or 82.36 points to finish the session at 10,759.18.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company Ltd fell 3.6 per cent, while Synlait Milk Ltd slipped 1.6 per cent. 

REUTERS

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