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Financials

REFILE-Financials drag Australian shares lower on dividend worries

(Corrects to remove extraneous words in second paragraph)

* Financial stocks fall to one-week low

* Technology, energy stocks also weigh

* NZ ends higher, Summerset Group up

August 17 (Reuters) - Financials pulled down Australian shares on Monday as a decision by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank to defer its final dividend brought the sector’s payout woes to surface.

The S&P/ASX 200 index settled 0.8% lower at 6,076.4, with financials shedding 1.63% to hit their lowest level since Aug. 10.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd fell 6.6% as the mid-sized lender deferred its full-year dividend payment, citing economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and posted full-year profit that almost halved from a year earlier.

“At the moment, the financial space is where there’s a bit of uncertainty about whether banks will be paying a dividend or not,” said James Tao, a market analyst at CommSec.

“That’s a big question mark moving forward for banks.”

Though the financial regulator lifted a freeze on dividends, it has said the payout should be less than half of their profit this year.

Dividend payouts are closely watched in Australia, where around two million people, or 8% of the total population, manage their own retirement income.

Among other financial stocks, AMP Ltd lost 4.2%, while the “Big Four” banks finished in negative territory.

Adding to the gloom, Victoria, the country’s second-most populous state, reported its biggest COVID-19 daily death toll with 25 fatalities and 282 new infections.

Technology stocks slipped 1.2%, led by a 2.4% drop in Computershare Ltd, while Afterpay Ltd lost 2.7%.

Energy stocks declined 0.8%, with Ampol Ltd shedding 3.6%, while Cooper Energy Ltd lost 1.3%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.93% to 11,672.95.

Among top gainers, Summerset Group Holdings Ltd climbed 5.43%, while Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained 5.33%. ($1 = 1.3931 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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