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Australia stocks fall, domestic uncertainty adds to weak sentiment; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed lower on Tuesday as sentiment was hit by domestic and global political uncertainty, with most sectors posting big declines.

Concerns over the Italian budget, impasse on Brexit talks as well as tensions between the West and Saudi Arabia over the killing of a journalist have dented global risk appetite.

Losses overnight on Wall Street, partly on nerves amid the U.S. earnings season, put Sydney on the backfoot from the start, with S&P/ASX 200 index closing down 1.1 per cent at 5843.1. It marked the third session of losses, following a 0.6 per cent drop on Monday.

Political uncertainty in Australia also undercut sentiment after Australia's ruling Liberal National government suffered a disastrous by-election loss over the weekend, snatching away its one-seat majority.

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The energy index led declines and fell 3.2 per cent to a over four-month closing low, as global oil prices dipped amid nervousness in the run-up to US sanctions against Iran's exports that start next month. Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd lost 2.9 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively.

Oil Search Ltd ended 4.4 per cent down despite reporting strong quarterly results.

Financial stocks lost 1.2 per cent, with the country's third largest lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipping 1.9 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia finished 1.1 per cent down. The lender said that it would sell its 80 per cent stake in Indonesian life insurance business PT Commonwealth Life.

Australia's financial sector has been under intense scrutiny this year, and has been heavily sold off over the past months, after revelations of widespread misconduct.

Healthcare stocks also ended lower as heavyweight CSL Ltd's 1.9 per cent decline weighed on the sector.

Bucking the trend, hospital operator Healthscope Ltd rose a record 20 per cent after it received a renewed A$4.11 billion takeover bid from private equity suitors. The stock was the biggest gainer on the ASX 200. The metals and mining sub-index declined 1.1 per cent, as mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively. Worries about slowing growth in China, a big buyer of Australian resources, have weighed on the sector.

New Zealand's, benchmark index S&P/NZX 50 fell 1.5 per cent or 129.08 points to 8,673.18, led by healthcare and consumer stocks.

Medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp fell 4.4 per cent, while a2 Milk Company lost 0.6 per cent.

Sellers circled Fisher & Paykel after a German regional court found that certain products of the company infringed a patent held by US based ResMed Inc.

REUTERS