Australia shares extend slide after strong run; NZ dips
* Aussie stocks down for 4th straight session
* Sigma Healthcare slumps 12 pct, board rejects takeover bid
* Newcrest Mining rises on JV deal
(Updates with closing figures)
March 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on
Wednesday, with financial and healthcare stocks leading the
decline as investors locked in gains following a strong run
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.2 percent or
13.6 points to 6,161.20, extending losses for a fourth straight
Investors took some money off the table after the benchmark
rose about 9 percent so far this year, fuelled by hopes for a
Sino-U.S. trade deal and China's stimulus plans to shore up its
cooling economy. The index lost 6.9 percent in 2018.
Financial stocks led the day's losses, with the sector
down 0.3 percent. Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.7
percent and National Australia Bank Ltd lost 0.4
The sector turned down late in Tuesday's session after the
federal government said it would no longer seek to abolish
hidden commission payments to home loan brokers by banks,
reversing a recommendation from an inquiry.
The healthcare sector also ended lower, with drug
maker CSL Ltd down 1.1 percent as the company's shares
started trading ex-dividend.
Pharmacy operator Sigma Healthcare Ltd slumped 12
percent, the worst performer on the benchmark, after its board
rejected a A$727 million ($513 million) takeover bid from
Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
The energy sub-index closed down 0.9 percent. Oil
and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd
slid 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
The gold sector bucked the trend with a 1.9 percent gain,
including top gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd up 3
Newcrest said on Tuesday it entered a joint venture with
London-listed Greatland Gold Plc, a day after
announcing plans to buy a 70 percent stake in a Canadian copper
and gold mine.
A new sentiment survey released on Wednesday said Australian
consumers have turned gloomy in a one-two punch to the economy
already battling a property downturn and anaemic wages growth,
raising the risk of an interest rate cut as early as next month.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged
down 0.1 percent, or 9.56 points, to close at 9,387.69.
Dairy products maker a2 Milk Company Ltd fell 1.1
percent, while telecom firm Spark New Zealand Ltd
slipped 0.7 percent.
Outdoor clothing and retailer Kathmandu Holdings Ltd
fell up to 1.6 percent during the session after it
flagged a suspected data breach at its online trading websites.
($1 = 1.4170 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; editing by Darren
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