Australia shares dragged lower by miners on China concerns

Tue Jan 7, 2014 8:14pm EST

* S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.2 percent, weighed down by miners

* China concerns linger after disappointing data (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY Jan 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.2 percent on Wednesday morning, dragged lower by miners like Rio Tinto on concerns about the economy in China, Australia's biggest export market.

Rio Tinto Ltd lost 1.1 percent and BHP Billiton Ltd shed 0.7 percent.

Growth in China's services industries slowed in December, a pair of surveys showed, mirroring a slowdown in manufacturing and confirming views that the world's second-largest economy lost steam at the end of last year.

"I guess a lot of people view Australia as the extension of China," said Credit Suisse equity strategist Damien Boey. "We are kind of caught in this tension at the moment, and so what you are seeing is that people are very cautious of the resources stocks."

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 12.4 points to 5,304.6 by 0049 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent on Tuesday.

The local market opened with positive leads from overseas as U.S. trade data and better German unemployment and consumer spending figures gave the latest evidence of strengthening fundamentals in developed economies.

"All can be seen as signs of risk-on in the developed world and that the euro zone is returning to a place of growth," said IG market strategist Even Lucas.

Australia's "Big Four" banks started to slip at midday. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia pared earlier gains and was nearly flat, while Westpac Banking Corp dipped 0.1 percent.

Among consumer stocks, supermarket operator Woolworths Ltd rose 0.2 percent and Coles-owner Wesfarmers Ltd climbed 0.6 percent.

Elsewhere, Sirtex Medical Limited jumped 17.2 percent after the drugmaker said the sales of its SIR-Spheres liver cancer treatment grew 18.7 percent from a year earlier in the quarter that ended in December.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.5 percent to 4,785.7. (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Chris Gallagher)