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Australian shares fall as BHP and Rio Tinto take hits; NZ edges lower

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slid on Thursday, pulled down by global miners BHP and Rio Tinto, which took hits battering their stock prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent, or 34.8 points to 6,240.9 at the close of trade. The benchmark edged down slightly on Wednesday.

"It is turning out today is quite a bad day for our materials players," said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

Shares of BHP, already down earlier because of lower commodity prices, were further impacted as workers at its Escondida mine in Chile, the world's biggest copper mine, voted to strike. For the day, the stock fell 3.3 per cent.

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Meanwhile, shares of Rio Tinto had their worst day in over four months, falling 4.9 per cent after reporting first-half underlying earnings below market expectations.

Concerns about higher inflation and reliance on iron ore for the bulk of its profits further dented confidence, and contributed to Rio's shares dropping to a more than three-month low.

The miner's London-listed shares also dropped on Wednesday, despite the company earmarking an additional $1 billion to buy back London-listed stock.

Also hurting market sentiment was US President Donald Trump's tariff threat of 25 per cent instead of 10 per cent on US$200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods, ratcheting up trade tensions.

Copper, iron ore, among other commodities, all slid on the potential hit to demand that escalating trade tensions between the world's two largest economies may have, with the metals and mining sub-index down 2.8 per cent.

Among the few stocks in positive territory, were Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Treasury Wine Estates, up 0.2 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.1 per cent or 10.76 points to finish at 8,849.16.

Fletcher Building and telecommunications firm Spark New Zealand were the biggest drags, falling 1.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent, but losses were capped by gains from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd.

REUTERS