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Australia shares fall on weak China factory data; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended at a one-week low on Tuesday as energy and mining stocks dropped sharply after disappointing factory data from China highlighted weakness in the world's second-largest economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.5 per cent, or 34 points, at 6,325.50, after losing to 0.4 per cent on Monday.

However, the index advanced for a fourth straight month in April, gaining 2.3 per cent.

According to official and private surveys, manufacturing activity in China expanded for a second straight month in April but at a much slower pace than expected.

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Chinese factory data will continue to have a significant effect on the Australian equity market said Nick Twidale, chief operating officer at Rakuten Securities Australia, as China is Australia's largest trading partner.

The China April economic data caused Australia's mining stocks index to slump 1.4 per cent to a more than two-month low. The index dropped 3.9 per cent in April, snapping its streak of four monthly gains.

Mining behemoths BHP Group and Rio Tinto fell 1.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

With Australian shares coming off a 11-year peak scaled on Friday, investors booked profits, with most other sectors also ending down.

"The ASX is up 12 per cent still (in 2019)... you'd think that people would be very happy with that return on a yearly basis, let alone quarterly basis," said Twidale.

Gold stocks slumped 1.9 per cent as record intraday highs on the US S&P 500 index overnight prompted investors to shift from gold to other assets.

Newcrest Mining lost 2.4 per cent after reporting a fall in its quarterly gold production and OceanaGold Corp slipped 2.7 per cent.

The gold sub-index had its worst month since August 2018 in April, falling 5.5 per cent.

Energy stocks extended their losing streak to a fifth session, in tandem with falling oil prices.

Shares of oil explorers Santos and Woodside Petroleum shed 1.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index remained largely unchanged, after gaining 0.2 per cent on Monday. The index rose for a fourth straight month, adding 1.7 per cent in April.

New Zealand-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp firmed 0.4 per cent, while Genesis Energy rose 1.2 per cent. 

REUTERS