March 7, 2018 / 6:54 AM / 10 months ago

Aussie shares fall as trade war fears resurface, NZ down too

* Market dented as free-trade advocate Gary Cohn resigns

* Financials, materials lead losses

March 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Wednesday as fears of a global trade war resurfaced after free-trade advocate Gary Cohn resigned as U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser.

Sentiment was further soured after data revealed that Australia’s economy grew more slower than expected during last quarter.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 1.01 pct, or 60.4 points, to 5,902.0 at the close of trade. On Tuesday, the benchmark rose more than 1 percent.

Markets were rattled by growing fears of a global trade war following Cohn’s resignation. He chose to resign after he lost a fight over Trump’s plans for hefty steel and aluminum import tariffs.

Australia’s gross domestic product rose 0.4 percent in the December quarter, while analysts had looked for an advance of around 0.5 percent despite trimming expectations following soft indicators such as low wage growth and consumption.

Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe expressed concern over the U.S. tariff proposal. Australia depends largely on the export of raw materials, and heftier tariffs on such could damage the economy.

Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark, ending 0.4 percent lower with the ‘Big Four’ banks losing between 0.7 percent to 1.6 percent.

Westpac Banking Corp was the biggest drag on the ASX 200, pulling it back about 6 points.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia on Wednesday announced it expects to raise $586.7 million through an issue of hybrid capital notes called ‘PERLS X’. Its share-price declined about 0.7 percent for the day.

Material stocks also fell, with the sector index down 0.8 percent as commodity prices lost ground.

Price of most metals slipped on Wednesday on heightened fears of a trade war that could derail global growth.

The New Zealand benchmark index also fell 0.52 percent, or 43.32 points, to 8,284.340 as healthcare and consumer staples stocks weighed down the market.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd ended 3.28 percent lower, while A2 Milk Company Ltd shed 1.5 percent, declining for a fifth straight session. (Reporting by Syed Saif Hussain Naqvi in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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