September 5, 2018 / 2:42 AM / 14 days ago

RPT-Australian shares slide as weak materials eclipse upbeat GDP data; NZ edges up

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* Weak commodity prices hurt materials tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

* Australia Q2 GDP beats expectations

* NZ edges up, on track for second session of gains

By Nikhil Nainan

Sept 5 (Reuters) - Material stocks yanked Australian shares down almost 1 percent on Wednesday, as persistent trade worries dented commodity prices and offset better-than-expected second quarter domestic economic growth data.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.8 percent, or 47.9 points to 6,245.2 by 0215 GMT. The benchmark dropped 0.3 percent on Tuesday.

Investors remained on edge amid a threat by the United States to impose tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese imports once the public comment period ends on Thursday.

Commodity prices took a hit overnight, with London traded nickel dropping to its weakest level since January, while copper eased 2.5 percent.

“Trade tensions pretty much drive the market into a risk-off trade (and) that means U.S. dollar goes up and once the dollar goes up, commodities come off and we have seen most of the base metals come off a bit,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

BHP fell 1.7 percent to a near two week low, the biggest drag on the metals and mining index, which lost 1.6 percent.

The global miner also announced it picked up a 6.1 percent stake in SolGold PLC for $35.2 million, the promising owner and operator of the Cascabel copper-gold project in Ecuador.

Blue Ocean Equities’ Somasundaram was optimistic about the long-term benefits of the deal for BHP given that “buying assets in South America right now would be cheap because the currency in South America is getting smoked.”

“Copper is an asset, as a commodity, it is not going to suddenly disappear. Whether you look at building electric cars or houses you still need cooper. So copper is going to be around into the future.”

The market appeared to brush aside second-quarter gross domestic product data showing growth of 3.4 percent from a year ago, beating expectations of 2.8 percent growth.

Financial stocks remained under pressure, down 0.7 percent with all the Big Four banks in the red.

On Tuesday, Westpac Banking Corp settled a record A$35 million ($25 million) fine for wrongly approving thousands of mortgages in a sign regulators are taking steps to tame the financial sector amid damaging revelations from an inquiry.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 0.1 percent higher to 9,304.03.

A 1.2 percent drop in heavyweight a2 Milk Company did enough to cap gains in top gainers Synlait Milk and Skycity Entertainment Group, which were up 2.7 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. For more individual stocks activity click on

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan, additional reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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