October 24, 2018 / 1:31 AM / 24 days ago

Australia shares mostly flat as financials offset energy losses, NZ flat

* Fall in oil prices hits energy stocks hard

* Financials, healthcare stocks offset losses

* Bellamy’s down 10 pct after outlook warning

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

Oct 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed in light trade on Wednesday as a decline in the crude oil price hit energy stocks, offsetting a recovery in the financial and healthcare sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was wavering between positive and negative territory and was flat at 5,840.70 by 0108 GMT. The benchmark had closed 1.1 percent lower on Tuesday.

Leading the losses in Australia were energy stocks, which cam under pressure after oil prices plunged about 5 percent to two-month lows on worries about demand and after Saudi Arabia said it could supply more crude quickly if needed.

The ASX Energy index fell as much as 2.8 percent to a more than four-month low.

WorleyParsons Ltd fell as much as 12 percent while Beach Energy Ltd traded down as much as 6 percent.

“Volumes are very benign at the moment - this is a nervous market,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut. “The headwinds at the moment including the tariff war between U.S and China, global geopolitical tensions and the fragility in the Chinese market are impacting Australia badly.”

The benchmark is on track to post its worst monthly loss in percentage terms this year.

The Metals and Mining index also dropped in morning trade with benchmark heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto falling as much as 1.8 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Gold stocks remained the only bright spot in the sector index, thanks to the yellow metal’s “safe haven” status during bouts of risk aversion.

Gold producer Regis Resources was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index, up 4.2 percent, while the country’s largest independent gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd rose as much as 1.9 percent after it reported a 5 percent rise in gold production for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

The financial and healthcare indexes countered some of the losses with both sectors clawing back recent declines.

Infant formula maker Bellamy’s Australia fell almost 10 percent to a near two-week low, after it said it expects fiscal 2019 first-half sales to decline in a range of 10 percent to 15 percent from a year ago.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index traded little changed, falling 0.05 percent to 8,668.97.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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