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Australia: Shares slump as Trump-Biden debate stokes caution

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell more than 2 per cent on Wednesday, with miners and financials suffering major blows, as investors tracked Wall Street futures lower after the first US presidential debate stoked caution and uncertainty ahead of the election.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 2.3 per cent lower at 5,815.9, posting their third straight session in the red. The benchmark snapped a five-month winning streak, and lost 1.4 per cent during the quarter.

US President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden debated on Wednesday as markets pulled back from early gains, with the US stock futures retreating after Mr Trump cast doubt on whether he would accept the election's outcome.

S&P 500 futures were down 0.6 per cent, with Dow Jones and Nasdaq 100 futures each losing as much as 1 per cent after the debate.

"The US elections, and today's debate, is adding an extra level to an already uncertain market," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbrocking.

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"No matter what the outcome of the elections, it will be contentious, and it will add more uncertainty to the equities," Mr Smoling added.

Back home, Australian heavyweight mining stocks, which are reliant on exports to China, were the biggest losers after shedding 2.3 per cent in their third consecutive session of losses.

Global iron ore mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto ended 2.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent lower, respectively.

Investors appeared to have shrugged off a positive data from China that showed factory activity extended growth in September, suggesting a recovery in the world's second largest economy.

Financials index ended 2.2 per cent lower, with the so-called "Big Four" banks posting major declines.

Top two lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking fell up to 1.6 per cent each.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended flat at 11,747.28, recovering from an earlier drop of 0.6 per cent.

The index lost 1.6 per cent in September, ending its five-month winning streak, but finished the quarter 2.6 per cent higher.

REUTERS

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