March 11, 2019 / 6:16 AM / 5 months ago

Australia shares falter on weak U.S., China data; NZ down

* Energy shares hit more than 3-week low

* Gold index up 4.5 pct (Updates with closing prices)

March 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Monday, led by financial and energy stocks, after downbeat data from the United States and China stoked concerns about a global economic slowdown.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.4 percent, or 23.6 points, to 6,180.20 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 1 percent on Friday.

Markets retreated after payroll data from the United States on Friday showed employment growth in the world’s largest economy almost stalled in February, adding to signs of a cooling economy.

Risk sentiment was also dampened by weak Chinese inflation and new loans data released on the weekend, adding to dismal trade figures on Friday and pointed to lacklustre demand in Australia’s largest trading partner.

However, a pledge by the People’s Bank of China to further support the economy by spurring loans and lowering borrowing costs helped to cushion some market losses.

Mining majors BHP Group Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Energy stocks slumped 1.6 percent to a more than 3-week closing low ahead of a Norwegian deal on Friday that is expected to affect Australia’s biggest oil and gas explorers.

Norway’s trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, will sell its stakes in oil and gas explorers and producers, according to a government plan.

Among the firms affected are Woodside Petroleum Ltd , Santos Ltd and Beach Energy Ltd, which lost between 1.7 percent and 2.4 percent on Monday.

The financial sub-index slipped 0.2 percent after chief executives of Australia’s largest lenders appeared before a parliamentary hearing on Friday. The chiefs of other major banks are expected to appear later this month. Adding to the sector’s woes, Australia’s corporate watchdog rebuked banks and financial services firms on Monday for delays in fixing internal systems that resulted in customers paying fees for services they had not received.

Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd fell 2.3 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank Ltd edged lower.

Gold stocks added 4.5 percent.

Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia’s largest gold miner, advanced 3.8 percent after it announced a deal to buy a copper and gold mine in Canada for $806.5 million and said it was open to more deals.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.52 percent, or 49.42 points, to finish the session at 9,390.85.

Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company Ltd slipped 2.7 percent and electricity retailer Meridian Energy Ltd dipped 1.9 percent. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru)

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