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Australia: Shares slip as new US tariffs loom; banking stocks drag

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Tuesday, with banking stocks leading losses, as investors waited to see if Washington will proceed with new tariffs on China this weekend that could change the course of their months-long trade war.

The S&P/ASX 200 index snapped a three-session rally to end 0.3 per cent, or 23.1 points, lower at 6,706.9.

Markets are in a wait-and-see mode, said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec, as they await headlines from Washington or Beijing.

US President Donald Trump has until Dec 15 to decide whether Washington will press pause on fresh tariffs that are scheduled to take effect against $156 billion worth of Chinese goods.

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Heavyweight bank units lent most to the benchmark's losses, with the nation's third-largest lender National Australia Bank Ltd giving up 1.5 per cent.

Brokerage Morgan Stanley cut NAB's price target on expectations of further capital raising and an another dividend cut in fiscal 2020.

Wealth manager IOOF Holdings Ltd bucked sectoral trend to end 0.6 per cent higher after Australia's banking regulator on Monday said it would allow IOOF to hold controlling stakes in superannuation licenses currently owned by ANZ.

IOOF shares had risen as much as 5.8 per cent during the session before giving up some gains.

Iron ore miners were among the few gainers for the day as prices of the steel-making ingredient rose to their highest in more than four months on supply uncertainties expected to emerge during the first quarter of next year.

The mining index added 0.6 per cent, with miners BHP Group Ltd, Rio Tinto Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd finishing between 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent higher.

Oil and gas producers were also in the red, pressured by oil prices slipping for a second straight session. Santos Ltd fell 1.3 per cent, while bigger peer Woodside Petroleum ticked 0.8 per cent lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.5 per cent, or 54.63 points, to 11,284.22.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained the most, rising 3 per cent to end at a record high.

REUTERS