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Australian shares extend losses to 5th day as Sino-US trade row escalates

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell more than 2 per cent on Tuesday, extending losses to a fifth straight session, after Washington branded Beijing a currency manipulator, escalating a bruising trade dispute that is increasingly weighing on global demand and financial markets.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 2.4 per cent or 162.2 points at 6,478.1.

It has lost nearly 5 per cent since last Thursday when US President Donald Trump said the US would slap 10 per cent tariffs on US$300 billion of goods from China, Australia's top trade partner.

Financial stocks, which have the heaviest weighting in the index, collectively lost 2.4 per cent and the "big four" banks declined between 1.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent.

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Export-reliant healthcare firms such as CSL Ltd also ended lower, as the local currency firmed against the greenback after Australia's central bank left interest rates unchanged at 1.0 per cent as expected.

But China's yuan steadied after sharp losses on Monday, offering markets some relief.

Data early in the day showed Australia's trade surplus swelled to an all-time high in June despite growing US tariff pressure on China.

The jump in exports was attributed partly to high prices for iron ore - the country's single biggest earner.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto, both with significant exposure to iron ore, pared earlier losses to finish 0.8 per cent and 0.1 per cent lower, respectively.

Safe-haven gold stocks such as Newcrest Mining came off eight-year highs to close 0.8 per cent lower.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.7 per cent to 10,587.17. Vista Group International, which develops software for the film industry, was the biggest decliner.

The country's central bank will review interest rates on Wednesday, with a 25 basis point cut all but confirmed, in line with global policy easing to fight slowing growth in the face of intensifying trade disputes.

REUTERS