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Australia shares fall on financials, real estate stocks; NZ hits new high


[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Tuesday, led down by real estate and financials stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, which rose the past two sessions, was off 0.4 per cent or 22.87 points to 5,782.20 at 0341 GMT. The benchmark gained 0.5 per cent on Monday.

Australia's real estate investment trusts (Reits) face a combination of severe cyclical consumer slowdown and structural pressure from e-commerce, which is affecting retail margins and reducing demand for physical space, Morgan Stanley in a note.

The brokerage downgraded property stocks Scentre Group and GPT Group, which were among Tuesday's top losers on the benchmark index.

Financial stocks also weighed on the index with the "Big Four" banks falling between 0.7 and 0.9 per cent.

Moody's Investors Service on Monday downgraded the long-term credit ratings for those lenders to Aa3 from Aa2, saying it sees elevated risks in the housing sector.

Energy stocks also contributed to Tuesday's drop, falling as much as 1.2 per cent to a near three-month low.

Oil prices fell about one per cent on Monday to a seven-month low as market players saw more signs that rising crude production in the United States, Libya and Nigeria is undercutting Opec-led efforts to support the market with output curbs.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd shed 1.4 per cent to slide to its lowest in more than six months and Origin Energy Ltd declined 1.6 per cent.

Bucking the trend, gold stocks gained the most in the benchmark. Gold prices edged higher on Tuesday after hitting near five-week lows the previous session.

Gold miner Independence Group NL, down the past two sessions, rose as much as 6.8 per cent.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index, which has advanced the past five sessions, rose 0.2 per cent or 11.83 points to 7,603.86, a record high. The benchmark index is on track to record its sixth session of gains.

Gains in material and information technology stocks helped push the index higher.

Software services provider Xero ltd extended gains into a fifth session, rising as much as 3.4 per cent , while building materials manufacturer Fletcher Building Ltd climbed 2.5 per cent to its highest in nearly one month.