October 19, 2018 / 1:39 AM / a month ago

Australian, NZ shares hit by souring global sentiment, growth woes

* Mining stocks lead losses on ASX

* Gold miner Saracen hits record on metal’s safe-haven appeal

* NZ stocks fall led by health stocks

By Devika Syamnath

Oct 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged down on Friday as global equities resumed a slide as geopolitical concerns added to anxiety over Italy’s budget, rising U.S. interest rates and a heated Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.4 percent lower, or 22.3 points, to 5920.1 at 1258 GMT - on track for its third straight weekly losses.

The benchmark tumbled 4.7 percent last week when a global equity rout had rippled through financial markets.

“Australian markets are following global equity markets which remain in a nervous position, with a tightening environment and global geopolitical risk at the forefront of concerns,” said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Perth-based Argonaut.

The European Commission issued a warning regarding Italy’s budget, while U.S. President Donald Trump comments that it “certainly looks” like U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead ratcheted up U.S.-Saudi tensions.

An escalating Sino-U.S. trade war did little to help the mood, while the spectre of rising U.S. dollar yields heightened concerns over the outlook for global growth.

Material stocks led the declines, with the mining index off as much as 1.7 percent to its weakest in over 4 weeks.

Mining majors BHP and Rio Tinto Ltd both gave up over 2 percent.

Copper, nickel and aluminium prices all went into the red on Thursday, as investors worried about Chinese growth and higher U.S. interest rates. China’s third quarter economic data, as well as monthly indicators on retail sales and investment, due later Friday are expected to show growth slowing further.

Energy stocks also declined over a 1 percent, as world oil prices were knocked by demand worries amid the Sino-U.S. trade row.

Oil and gas major Origin Energy Ltd fell as much as 2.3 percent to its lowest in four weeks.

“Gold is probably the most interesting place to be. Although the U.S. dollar has been stronger this week, the gold price has obviously held up very well on safe-haven trade,” said Rooney.

The Australian gold index saw its best level in over 2 months with Saracen Mineral Holdings Ltd up over 5 percent to a record high.

Australian financial stocks bucked the market and reversed losses to trade slightly higher, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia adding 0.5 percent.

“The sector has been well and truly caned over the last few months ... but investors have probably taken the view that this is priced in now,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking.

The sector has seen a sharp selloff amid explosive revelations of misconduct exposed by a powerful Royal Commission inquiry.

In New Zealand benchmark index S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.9 percent or 75.87 points to 8,834.72 at 1247 GMT.

Healthcare stocks were among the top decliners, with Ryman Healthcare Ltd touching its worst level in over 12 months. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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