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Australia shares slump most in 2-1/2 years as global equities tumble

[BENGALURU] Australian shares suffered their worst single-day drop in nearly 2-1/2 years on Tuesday as worries about stronger inflation and higher interest rates prompted global investors to take profits from one of the longest bull runs in history.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 3.2 per cent or 192.9 points to 5,833.3, a four-month low. The benchmark declined 1.6 per cent on Monday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the benchmark by a 6.4-to-1 ratio.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 4.2 per cent to an over one-month low, after Wall Street suffered its biggest decline since 2011.

Banks accounted for most of losses, with the Australian financial index dipping 3.3 per cent to a near five-month low.

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All the "big four" banks fell about 3 per cent, and were among the biggest drags on the benchmark.

Macquarie Group Ltd, Australia's biggest investment bank, declined to a near eight-week low, despite forecasting a record profit for fiscal 2018.

Materials also fell, regardless of a strengthening in iron ore prices. Global miner BHP slipped 2.7 per cent to its lowest since December 2017, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd declined 1.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, boosted by safe-haven buying, gold miner Regis Resources Ltd was the only stock to trade in the black out of the 200 stocks in the Australian benchmark.

Consumer stocks also fell, with data showing that Australian retail sales eased more than expected in December, but still posted a smart rebound in the last quarter of 2017 in an optimistic sign for household consumption and economic growth.

Australia's central bank struck an upbeat tune about the country's economy on Tuesday, supported by solid economic data in recent weeks. As expected, it held rates steady at 1.5 per cent at its first meeting of 2018. New Zealand markets were closed for a public holiday.


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