* Weaker iron ore prices weigh on miners
* Afterpay Touch Group climbs to record high
* New Zealand’s Central Bank stands pat (Updates to close)
By Shriya Ramakrishnan
Sept 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on Wednesday as investor confidence was dealt a fresh blow after U.S. lawmakers called for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, raising the risk of prolonged political infighting in the United States.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6% to 6,710.2 at the close of trade, having finished flat on Tuesday.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday launched the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, accusing him of seeking foreign help to smear Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of next year’s election. Trump has denied the claims.
Adding to the sour mood, trade worries resurfaced after Trump delivered a stinging rebuke to China’s trade practices at the United Nations General Assembly, saying he would not accept a “bad deal” in U.S.-China trade negotiations.
Leading declines on the local benchmark index, mining stocks fell 1.4% to their lowest level in over a week amid weaker iron ore prices.
Global mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto shed 1.9% and 2.2%, respectively.
Australian miners, whose top export market is China, are heavily sensitive to developments on the Sino-U.S. trade front.
Energy stocks also fell 1.6%, with Woodside Petroleum, the country’s largest oil and gas explorer down 1.1%, while its peer Oil Search dipped 2.7%.
On the brighter side, shares of Afterpay Touch Group surged as much as 15.4% to a record high and was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index.
The buy-now-pay-later firm on Wednesday submitted an external auditor’s interim report to Australia’s financial crime watchdog, following suspected non-compliance with laws on money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
The company reiterated it has not identified any money laundering or terrorism financing activity in its systems to date. “Afterpay’s systems include several features that help to control our money laundering and terrorism financing risk, including the implementation of strict spending limits,” the firm said.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed marginally higher at 10,861.44.
Earlier in the day, the New Zealand central bank held the official ash rate at a record-low 1.0%, as expected, but flagged scope for more fiscal and monetary stimulus to support an economy facing intensifying global trade and demand pressures.
Air New Zealand and energy retailer Trustpower Ltd were among the top gainers, rising 2.6% and 3% each. (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan and Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)