November 21, 2019 / 5:53 AM / 21 days ago

Australia shares extend fall on Westpac, trade deal woes; NZ down

* Westpac ends at lowest level since early Feb

* Financial sector closes at six-month trough

* Miners hit by fall in iron ore prices (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

Nov 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed another session of losses on Thursday, pressured by scandal-hit Westpac Banking Corp, and also a flare-up in tensions surrounding U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7% to 6,672.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 1.4% on Wednesday.

Financial stocks, which comprise the lion’s share of the benchmark, shed almost 1% to close at a six-month trough, with Westpac Banking Corp finishing at its lowest since Feb. 4.

Australia’s financial crime regulator on Wednesday alleged that the lender was involved in money laundering and had breached laws on over 23 million instances.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the board of Westpac must review the position of CEO Brian Hartzer, laying further pressure on the company.

Investors were wary of the sector as a whole amid speculation that the other lenders might divulge similar breaches, with the remaining three of the “big four” banks ending trade in negative territory.

Appetite for risky assets fizzled after U.S.-China trade negotiations hit a snag, following the passing of the pro-Hong Kong rights bill by Congress which President Donald Trump is set to sign.

“With China reiterating retaliatory measures over the bill, both sides could be locked in a standoff,” analysts at Mizuho wrote in a note to clients.

Australian mining stocks ended more than 1% lower and were among worst hit by the trade tensions, as the uncertainty led to a fall in iron ore prices.

Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group fell about 2.2%, while BHP Group shed 1.5%.

The Healthcare and technology sub-indexes each slid around 1%, with drugmaker CSL declining 1.4% and fintech firm Afterpay Touch Group tumbling nearly 4% at session end.

The energy sub-index closed 0.5% lower at a two-week low, but some losses were negated by a 2% jump in oil prices overnight.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2% or 17.3 points to finish the session at 10,958.16, dragged lower by energy and financial stocks.

Sky Network TV and Trustpower were top losers on the New Zealand benchmark, finishing 5.9% and 4.5% down, respectively.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba and Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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