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Australia shares slide as Wall St hit by China concerns; NZ at 4-week low

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell to their weakest level in over a week on Thursday, led by declines in the financial sector after Wall Street was pressured by a report that China may slow its buying of US governments debt.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent or 33.4 points to 6,063.3 by 0012 GMT. The benchmark lost 0.6 per cent in the previous session.

Major indexes on Wall Street finished in the red on Wednesday as investors grew anxious after Bloomberg reported that China, the world's biggest foreign holder of US Treasuries, could slow or halt US government bond purchases.

"If China was to reduce their involvement in buying US government debt, it would have a significant impact on interest rates, which is why I think we're seeing our banks lead the market lower today," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

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"The pullback we saw yesterday and the pullback we are seeing today is relatively healthy considering the run-up we had seen in the market prior to this minor sell-off."

Financials bore the brunt of the downturn. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group declined 0.9 per cent to its lowest in a week, while Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell about 0.7 per cent each.

Healthcare giant CSL Ltd was among the biggest drags on the index, suffering its largest drop in over five weeks.

Material stocks, which opened higher on the back of solid oil and metal prices, snapped back into the red with the rest of the market. Heavyweight BHP Billiton Ltd fell 0.8 per cent, the worst loss in over three weeks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 1.4 per cent to an over a four-week low at 8,248.23, with losses seen across most sectors.

Dairy firm A2 Milk Company slumped 4.2 per cent to a near four-week low, while Ryman Healthcare Ltd posted its biggest intraday drop in over 11 weeks.

REUTERS