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Australia: Shares sink to 2-month lows, NZ boosted by dairy

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares dropped to a two-month low on Wednesday hit by falling commodity prices and Brexit concerns, but New Zealand stocks gained helped by strong earnings from a dairy producer.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 9.362 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,193.9 by 0315 GMT. At one point, the index slipped to its weakest since April 19.

Financial institutions and major miners led the market lower. The Big Four banks were all down between 0.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent. Investors are worried about the potential exit of Britain from the European Union and awaiting the US Federal Reserve's policy decision later in the global day.

The material index skidded around 1 per cent as concerns about global growth weighed on commodity prices, from copper to iron ore.

Demand for safe-haven gold also eased but that was due to profit-taking following recent hefty gains.

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Mining giant BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group fell 0.9 per cent each, Rio Tinto was down 0.6 per cent while Newcrest Mining slumped 2 per cent.

In contrast, the energy index rose 0.6 per cent defying a slide in oil prices with LNG the clear outperformer. It bounced 19 per cent following two sessions of deep losses. It touched an eight-month peak last week, largely due to a strong pick-up in liquefied natural gas prices.

Biotech company Mesoblast was another big winner, up 15 per cent on bargain hunting. The stock plummeted 42 per cent on Tuesday after its partner Teva Pharmaceutical Industries gave up rights to Mesoblast's promising heart failure treatment.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 51.07 points, to 6,886.020, after falling to its lowest level since early May in the previous session.

The market pulled closer to a record peak touched on June 1.

Health software company Orion Health Group rose 2.17 per cent, while A2 Milk led gains, rising 11 per cent after the dairy company revised upwards its full-year 2016 forecasts.

Retirement village operators led losses with Ryman Healthcare losing 2.05 per cent and Metlifecare down 1.79 per cent.

Auckland Airport fell 1.09 per cent and New Zealand Refining lost 1.54 per cent.

Meridian Energy fell 0.59 per cent after the company announced electricity demand in May was lower than the same month the previous year.


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