Australian shares fall across the board, but post best year since 2009; NZ dips

(Updates to close)

Dec 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell nearly 2% on the last trading day of 2019, but still racked up their best annual performance in a decade.

Broad-based losses pressured the S&P/ASX 200 index to fall 1.8% to 6,684.1, its lowest close since Dec 5. The benchmark had slipped 0.3% on Monday, but for the year, it gained 18.4%.

Wall Street’s major indexes saw their biggest one-day percentage declines in about four weeks on Monday, as investors locked-in gains made this month after the United States and China reached an interim trade deal.

Australia and New Zealand markets closed early on Tuesday and Australia will resume trade on Thursday, Jan.2, while New Zealand will reopen the following day.

Aussie tech stocks tracked their U.S. peers to drop 3% and hit their lowest level in nearly three weeks.

Software firms WiseTech Global Ltd and Technology One Ltd were among the biggest losers on the main index, sliding 5.5% and 6.2%, respectively.

The heavyweight financial sub-index shed 1.3%, with all of the Big Four banks closing in the red.

This year was tumultuous for the sector as multiple top banks faced constant allegations of being involved in wrongdoing that ranged from money laundering to deceiving customers by charging unnecessary fees.

Metals and mining index, another crucial component of the benchmark, fell 0.8%, with mining behemoths BHP Group Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd dropping 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively.

Gold stocks were the sole gainers in the region, adding 1.3% as bullion prices firmed.

Ramelius Resources Ltd jumped 6.5%, while OceanaGold Corp rose 4.5%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.6% lower at 11,491.90. The benchmark surged 30.4% this year, its best ever.

Top losers on the New Zealand benchmark were Ryman Healthcare and Sky Network Television, which lost 5.1% and 2.7%, respectively. (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)