September 4, 2017 / 2:37 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares slip as N.Korea tension simmers; NZ slightly down

Sept 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Monday, hit by rising tension on the Korean peninsula after North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, hurting sentiment across the region.

North Korea on Sunday said it tested an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile, in a dramatic escalation of Pyongyang’s stand-off with the United States and its allies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent, or 24.7 points, to 5699.90 by 0135 GMT.

“The index is down due to geopolitical tension caused by North Korea testing the hydrogen bomb over the weekend,” said Adam Tout, a senior analyst at CPS Capital in Perth. “The market is being cautious due to geopolitical risk.”

Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the index.

Aussie financial stocks fell 0.9 percent with the “Big Four” banks, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, slipping in the range of 1.5 percent to 0.6 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia announced a major board reshuffle. Last week it confirmed that its internal reporting had flagged shortcomings in monitoring of offshore transactions as early as February, well before it was accused of facilitating illicit transfers.

In an unprecedented scandal that has shaken Australia’s banking sector, CBA is faces billion of dollars in potential fines, after it was sued by financial crime fighting agency AUSTRAC last month for alleged money-laundering breaches.

Sentiment was further hurt by a fall in U.S. gasoline prices for the first day since Hurricane Harvey, as some refineries restarted operations. Australian energy stocks dropped 0.2 percent.

Fuel supplier Caltex Australia dropped 1 percent while shares of Australia’s second-largest independent oil and gas producer, Santos Ltd,, fell 0.9 percent.

However, Austraian gold stocks climbed 1.4 percent as prices hit their highest in nearly 10 months after the North Korean test drove investors to safe-haven assets.

“Gold stocks seem to have taken encouragement due to North Korea’s test and have rallied as a safe haven asset for investors,” added Tout.

Aluminium prices peaked since February 2013, nickel climbed to nine-month highs and Chinese rebar steel futures rose as much as 6 percent on Friday, after data showed China’s August manufacturing activity grew at its fastest in six months.

The ASX 300 metal and minning index climbed 0.5 percent, with major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gaining 0.2 percent each.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 percent, or 5.55 points, to 7,816 by 0137 GMT.

SKY Network Television was the biggest drag on the index, tumbling 8.6 percent to hit a record low, while Fletcher Building Ltd fell 1.4 percent. (Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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