Australia shares skid to 6-week lows on Wall St, RBA eyed

Mon Feb 3, 2014 7:35pm EST

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(Adds quote from dealer, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY Feb 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 1.4 percent on Tuesday morning to six-week lows after disappointing U.S. manufacturing data pressured Wall Street.

The fall comes ahead of a policy review by the Reserve Bank of Australia later in the day. Markets are pricing in a near 0 percent chance of a 25 basis point cut in interest rates.

"Even if we get a dovish monetary policy statement from the RBA, something we see as unlikely, the index is likely to finish with steep losses as the global repricing of risk assets continues," David Scutt, a dealer at Arab Bank Australia said in a note to clients.

The S&P/ASX 200 index tumbled 74 points to 5,113.9 by 2355 GMT, its largest one day drop in three weeks, and has fallen for seven of the past ten sessions.

The benchmark is hovering some 80 points above a 4-month low of 5,028.2 hit on Dec. 12, a low marked on worries about slowing growth in China and U.S. Federal Reserve's tapering of its massive stimulus program.

Financials weighed most on the local bourse on Tuesday. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 1.3 percent while Westpac Banking Corp dropped 1.6 percent. Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd fell 1.8 percent.

Bluechip resource stocks lost ground as copper fell to a two-month low, with slowing factory growth in China and the United States compounding a deteriorating demand outlook.

BHP Billiton Ltd lost 1.8 percent while rival Rio Tinto Ltd shed 1.7 percent. Mineral sands exploration company Iluka Resources Ltd skidded 3.3 percent.

But the gold sector fared better after bullion rose more than 1 percent as investors flocked to the safehaven commodity on worries about global economic growth.

Australia's top gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped 4.5 percent while Medusa Mining Ltd climbed 2.4 percent.

Westfield Group lost 1.1 percent after the company said its estimated distribution for the six months ended December is A$0.255 per ordinary stapled security, half of its forecasted distribution of A$0.51 as previously advised.

Universal Coal PLC, soared 8 percent after to 12 month highs of A$0.13 after the company agreed to acquire New Clydesdale Colliery from Exxaro Resources Ltd, South Africa's largest listed coal miner.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index lost 1.1 percent to 4,798.1. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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