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Australian shares shaken by trade conflict; NZ dips

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[BENGALURU] Escalating trade tensions knocked Australian shares on Wednesday, as Washington's threat to impose tariffs on a further US$200 billion of Chinese imports rang alarm bells across financial markets.

Broad-based losses pushed the S&P/ASX 200 index 0.7 per cent or 42.5 points lower to 6,215.6 at the close of trade, reflecting gloom across Asian equities. The benchmark declined 0.4 per cent on Tuesday.

The negative sentiment weighed heavily on financial stocks which fell 0.7 per cent and led the declines.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia dipped 0.5 per cent to a one-week low, while peer Westpac Banking Corp dropped 0.7 per cent.

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The threat of further tariffs also led to a selloff in Chinese iron ore futures and base metal prices, hurting local materials stocks.

Global miner BHP Ltd slipped 1.3 per cent and was the biggest drag on the benchmark, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd fell 1.8 per cent.

Energy retailers were also under pressure, with Origin Energy and AGL Energy falling 3.6 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.

The country's competition regulator concluded an inquiry into retail electricity pricing and made recommendations to reduce prices for customers.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 21.54 points to finish the session at 9,001.39.

Telecommunication services stocks were the biggest drags, with Spark New Zealand Ltd slipping 1.2 per cent to a more than one-week low.

REUTERS