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Australian, NZ shares join the global rout; gold stocks glitter

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares joined the global selloff, closing at a near six-month low on Thursday, as the Wall Street rout overnight battered equity markets elsewhere.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed 2.74 per cent, or 166 points, down at 5,883.80 with all major sector indexes in the red.

The high-profile financials and materials indices pulled the benchmark down heavily, with the former feeling an additional pinch with two major banks facing parliamentary grilling on financial misconduct.

US stocks tumbled on Wednesday as investors dumped high-growth names such as technology firms, with rising Treasury yields and trade-related worries sapping risk appetites.

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The mayhem on Wall Street battered sentiment further in an Australian market already hit by Sino-US trade tensions as well as an IMF forecast of a global economic slowdown. The benchmark has fallen more than 5 per cent this month.

The financial index, reeling under a powerful quasi-judicial inquiry into wrongdoings in the sector, closed down 2.9 per cent with all but one of its constituents off.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest lender, and Westpac Banking Corp, whose executives appeared before a parliament enquiry during the day, dropped 2.9 per cent and 2.6 per cent, respectively.

In his first public questioning since the launch of the inquiry, CBA chief executive Matt Comyn said that a money-laundering scandal was the greatest disappointment of his career.

The Metals and Mining index also melted, ending 2.8 per cent down though some of the losses were offset by gains in gold stocks, a historic safe haven in panic scenarios.

The top five percentage gainers on the Australian benchmark index were gold stocks, led by Evolution Mining Ltd and St Barbara Ltd, which both finished up 6.3 per cent.

Gloomy sentiment prevailed in New Zealand as well, as the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index saw its steepest single-session fall in about a decade. The benchmark index finished 3.6 per cent, or 329.62 points, down at 8,721.20.

Dairy company a2 Milk Co Ltd was the top percentage decliner on the benchmark, plunging 11.5 per cent to an eight-month low.

REUTERS