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Australia shares take breather as tensions simmer in Korea; NZ dip


[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Wednesday after the previous day's solid gains, with financials and real estate stocks accounting for most of the losses, as rising tensions in the Korean peninsula checked risk sentiment.

A holiday in the United States and a dearth of major data kept volumes muted, with investors watching out for minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting due later in the day.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.2 per cent or 10.818 points to 5773 by 0230 GMT.

North Korea said it had conducted a test of a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a large and heavy nuclear warhead.

Market voices on:

"The rhetoric we heard from those guys (North Korea) is certainly a little bit more aggressive with the fact that they are looking to have a warhead that can reach the US," said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets.

"I think it is a step up in their aggressive rhetoric, and the market is keen to respond with a wave of risk aversion."

Financials were among the biggest drags, with with the 'Big Four' banks - Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia New Zealand Banking - all marginally down.

Real estate stocks also pressured the benchmark, with Westfield Corp sliding 2.2 per cent and Scentre Group down 1.2 per cent.

The Australian central bank on Tuesday cautioned against record high household debt in the country's red-hot property market.

Materials were one of the few bright spots on a day that saw most of the sectors slipping into the red.

China's steel rebar futures on Tuesday rose to their highest in more than three years, before retreating at the close of trading, as worries over tighter supply fuelled bullish bets.

Mining giants BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.2 per cent and one per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent or 20.24 points to 7600.4.

Sentiment was affected by a statement from government property valuer QV saying prices for New Zealand homes grew at their slowest annual pace in more than two years, as previously sizzling demand was hurt by regulatory curbs.

Spark New Zealand fell 1.7 per cent and was the biggest drag on the index.

In other stocks, a2 Milk Company shed 0.8 per cent as global dairy prices continued to moderate after a strong run earlier in the year.