July 11, 2018 / 2:04 AM / a month ago

Australian shares rattled by escalating trade tensions; NZ unchanged

* Aussie shares fall on renewed trade tensions

* Financials and materials stocks biggest drag

* NZ industrials slip, utilities perk up

By Aditya Soni

July 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares stepped back on Wednesday as financial markets were jolted by escalating trade tensions after Washington said it would impose tariffs on a further $200 billion of Chinese imports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.6 percent or 38.80 points to 6,219.30 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark dipped 0.4 percent on Tuesday.

“(Markets are down on) the fear of the eventual repercussions of the escalation in the trade war,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader

“At one point this morning the spot futures were up, that was before the announcement of the tariffs on $200 billion worth of imports...we’re now down as Australia is kind of caught between two protagonists.”

Financials, which account for nearly half of the Aussie benchmark, were the worst hit sector as they dipped 0.7 percent.

Index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 0.9 percent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd dropped 1 percent.

“The banks are coming down because everyone else is down but it’s also because CBA two says ago at A$76 simply didn’t make sense,” McKenna said.

Materials stocks, especially miners, were also under pressure. A slowdown in the world economy caused by rising trade tariffs could hit commodities prices, hurting Australian miners that rely heavily exports.

Global miner BHP fell 1.6 percent and was the biggest drag on the benchmark, while Rio Tinto Ltd dipped 1.9 percent.

Energy stocks were also lower, undermined by a slump in oil prices.

Origin Energy Ltd dipped 3.5 percent to a near four-week low, while Oil Search Ltd slipped 0.5 percent.

However, some consumer staples stocks rose after a measure of Australian consumer sentiment jumped in July to its highest since late 2013.

Woolworths Group Ltd rose 1.6 percent to near a three and a half year high, while Australia-listed shares of a2 Milk Company Ltd firmed 1 percent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand shares were unchanged, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index falling 3.39 points to 9,019.54.

Industrials led the declines, with Auckland International Airport Ltd falling 0.7 percent, while Tourism Holdings Ltd slipped 1.3 percent.

But utilities firmed, braking the benchmark’s fall. Contact Energy Ltd rose 0.9 percent, while Mercury NZ Ltd strengthened 0.8 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Devika Syamnath; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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