March 7, 2018 / 1:49 AM / 14 days ago

Financials, consumer stocks drag Aussie shares; NZ falls

* Australia’s Q4 GDP rises 0.4 pct q/q, below forecasts

* Financials and consumer stocks lead losses in Australia

* NZ dragged by healthcare and consumer sectors

By Christina Martin

March 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares slid on Wednesday, following weak U.S. stock futures, and data that showed the country’s economic growth slowed last quarter.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 0.4 percent in the December quarter, from an upwardly revised 0.7 percent in the previous quarter. Analysts had looked for a rise of around 0.5 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7 percent, or 43.5 points, to 5,918.9 by 0114 GMT. The benchmark closed up more than 1 percent in the previous session.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, resigned on Tuesday after he lost a fight within the White House over Trump’s plans to impose hefty tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

S&P 500 futures dropped more than one percent on the news.

“The tone is certainly set by the U.S. and it appears to be a broad-based selling across a lot of our major stocks, with the banks getting hit harder. There is a lot of uncertainty that has been thrown into the equation with the resignation of Cohn, who was seen as a sensible, market-friendly adviser,” said James McGlew, executive director for corporate stockbroking at Perth-based Argonaut.

Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the index, down more than 1 percent, with the ‘Big Four’ banks losing between 0.5 percent and 1.4 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) said that it expects to raise about A$750 million ($587 million) through an issue of hybrid capital notes on Wednesday.

“This (CBA’s issue) is just another one of their instruments or PERLS as they’re called,” said McGlew.

“CBA has very successfully spun these out, and this is more of a rollover of a previous series, another large issuance of debt. In fact, CBA is probably the least impacted of our major banks this morning.”

Westpac Banking Corp was the biggest loser by index points on the Australian benchmark, down as much as 1.6 percent to its lowest in more than 8 months.

Consumer stocks were the second biggest drag on the main index.

McGlew said that the consumer stock market has external forces at work, among them foreign entrants like supermarket operator Aldi setting up in Australia and pressuring retailers such as Woolworths Group and Wesfarmers Ltd.

Woolworths and Wesfarmers fell 1.1 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

“When you go down further, you have companies like Myer hopelessly hitting south and showing what a tough market retail is, getting competition from online retailers as well,” McGlew added. Myer Holdings Ltd plunged as much as 4.4 percent.

The materials sector slipped as much as 0.8 percent as base metal prices fell, with iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange closing down 1.7 percent at 520.50 yuan.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index also fell, down 0.3 percent, or 20.9 points, to 8,306.76, with healthcare and consumer staple stocks dragging the index down.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd lost as much as 1.5 percent, while dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd was on track for a fifth straight session of declines, down as much as nearly 2 percent.

Reporting by Christina Martin in Bengaluru Editing by Eric Meijer

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