April 12, 2018 / 3:10 AM / 14 days ago

Australia shares fall as financials drag; NZ follows suit

* Financials drive losses; resource stocks only gainers

* New Zealand bans new offshore oil and gas exploration

* HK, Singapore, Toronto bourses recognised by NZX for listings

By Aaron Saldanha

April 12 (Reuters) - Australia shares tracked global peers to slide on Thursday, incurring broad-based losses on nervousness arising from the threat of imminent U.S. military action in Syria.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria, declaring missiles “will be coming” which led to major U.S. indices falling between 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent.

On Thursday, the S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.3 percent, or 14.5 points, to 5,814.2 by 0223 GMT. It fell 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

The financial index contributed the most to the benchmark’s weakness, losing as much as 0.7 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia weighed on the main index the most, dropping as much as 0.9 percent. Westpac Banking Corp was the second-largest contributor to the benchmark’s fall, down as much as 1.1 percent.

“The money is coming out of the banks...if you see the trade yesterday, banks were hit in the morning, lunch time and the close,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist, Blue Ocean Equities.

“That is a general habit global traders are playing and it looks like it is happening again this morning and they are hitting our banks, so it is reducing global exposure into Australia.”

Energy stocks traded as much as 0.4 percent higher after turnover on the Shanghai crude oil contracts for September delivery shot to the highest since their launch last week, supplementing the run-up in oil prices on Wednesday.

Oil prices hit their highest since late-2014 on Wednesday following Trump’s comments about Syria and Saudi Arabia saying it intercepted missiles over Riyadh.

Resource stocks were clear gainers on Thursday, with the Australian mining index firming up to 0.9 percent. Global miners Rio Tinto and BHP traded up as much as 0.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.8 percent, or 66.46 points, to 8,387.26, as most sectors dropped.

Health care stocks and consumer staples were the biggest factors in the direction of trade with medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd and dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd losing as much as 2.1 percent each.

New Zealand said on Thursday it would not grant any new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration, taking the industry by surprise with a decision that it said would push investment overseas.

The government said the move would not affect the country’s 22 existing exploration permits, and any oil and gas discoveries from firms holding those licences could still lead to mining permits of up to 40 years.

Petroleum explorer New Zealand Oil and Gas Ltd on Thursday said it does not expect any adverse impact on business from the decision. Its shares dropped as much as 4.8 percent to the lowest since July, 2017, on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, New Zealand’s stock exchange operator (NZX) approved the Hong Kong Exchange, the Singapore Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange as recognised stock exchanges for equity listings. The deal allows for dual listing for market participants and exemptions from nearly all NZX listing rules. (Additional reporting by Karthika Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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