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Australia: Shares lower on US growth concerns; New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares struggled on Thursday, weighed down by financials and miners, as minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting raised concerns about growth in the world's largest economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.4 per cent to 6,200.90 by 0110 GMT, after having ended little changed on Wednesday.

Analysts said investors in Australia remained cautious, despite gains on Wall Street overnight, as the Fed minutes showed policymakers said a "deterioration" in the US economy could be amplified by large debt burdens at American companies.

"The positive lead from the Fed meeting minutes did not spill over to our markets today as investors here remained cautious, probably focusing on the lack of consensus among the US policymakers," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

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Financials, the largest sector in the benchmark, declined as much as 0.8 per cent with all the "Big Four" banks falling between 0.5 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

Bank of Queensland was the top percentage loser on the benchmark, dropping more than 4 per cent, after it said its first-half cash earnings fell 8 per cent.

The broader weakness in metal prices put the miners under pressure, with the metals and mining sub-index shedding up to 0.8 per cent.

China's iron ore futures paused after a seven-session rally, while zinc touched a two-week low on concerns that Chinese smelters will ramp up output. Other major base metals - copper, aluminium and lead - also slipped.

Index heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto declined 0.4 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively.

Healthcare stocks also declined with major sector players in the benchmark CSL and Cochlear shedding 0.8 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively.

Whitehaven Coal fell most among energy stocks after the company reported a 3 per cent fall in its March quarter saleable coal production, and lowered its production guidance for fiscal 2019.

The gold sub-index, which rose 1.8 per cent in the previous session, dropped 0.8 prices despite a rise in the price of the yellow metal.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the benchmark by a 8-to-5 ratio.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.6 per cent to 9,762.89 and was set to snap a six-session losing run.

Retirement village operator Summerset Group Holdings, the top percentage gainer on the benchmark, put on 2.5 per cent.

REUTERS