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Australian shares fall as financials weigh; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Wednesday as financials reversed their gains from the previous session, while materials stocks continued their decline on weaker commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.4 per cent, or 23.5 points to 6,189.1 by 0150 GMT.

May retail sales came in slightly higher than expected at 0.4 per cent, but were lower than the revised value for April.

"The retail sector has been under sustained pressure for many years so any surprise on retail sales does have potential market implications," said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

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The benchmark climbed 0.5 per cent on Tuesday.

Financial stocks led the losses after rising 0.9 per cent on Tuesday, with the main financial index down 0.6 per cent as investors took profits.

Platinum Investment Management, which has investments in China, was the top percentage loser on the benchmark, sliding as much as 9.9 per cent to a near 11-month low, as trade war concerns weakened Chinese asset prices.

"The market is really getting into the trade war fears. Chinese moves to support the yuan showed that any move by the United States in the trade war will drive the yuan and Chinese equities even lower," said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

Australia and New Zealand Banking bucked the broader trend while the other "Big Four" banks traded in a range of 0.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent lower.

In materials stocks, BHP and Rio Tinto reflected the broader losses in the sector, as commodity prices continue to weaken.

Copper prices hit nine-month lows on Wednesday on worries about global growth, while Shanghai rebar futures fell for a second session on Tuesday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent to 9,024.37, with consumer staples and health care stocks leading the losses.

New Zealand shares of a2 Milk Company were the biggest drag, down as much as 3.7 per cent from the strong gains it made in the previous session when its supply contract with Synlait was extended.

REUTERS