Australian stocks fall as trade worries weigh on miners , NZ unchanged
* Morgan Stanley downgrades ANZ to "underweight"
* Mining, financial stocks lead declines
* Gains in NZ industrials offset losses in consumer stocks
By Devika Syamnath
March 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares dipped into the red
on thin volumes on Friday, as fresh concerns about global trade
and the Chinese economy weighed on mining stocks while the
financial sector continued its recent decline.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 1.4 points lower to
6,178.2 by 0121 GMT. The benchmark was set for its first weekly
loss in three.
In global markets, European shares rose on voting that
backed a Brexit delay but Wall Street faltered on a Bloomberg
report of a likely delay in U.S.-China trade talks.
"I expect the market to roll into a bit of a slight negative
in the back end of the day because most of the local guys will
lock in profit given the risk in Europe and U.S.," said Mathan
Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean
Mining stocks lost more than 1 percent after copper
prices dropped on Thursday as industrial output in China fell to
a 17-year low in the first two months of 2019.
Australia relies heavily on raw material exports, most of
which is lapped up by top consumer China and so local mining
stocks are especially sensitive to factors affecting the Chinese
Shares of BHP Group and Rio Tinto, two of
the largest miners in the world, retreated as much as 1.6
percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.
Financial stocks extended losses to a sixth session,
with the fall exacerbated by Morgan Stanley downgrading its
rating on Australia and New Zealand Banking to
"underweight" from "equal-weight", sending its shares to their
lowest in over a month.
"We believe revenue pressure is growing, ongoing positive
cost surprises look unlikely ... ROE (return on equity) is not
recovering, and the share price is vulnerable to earnings
downgrades," said Morgan Stanley in a note.
Shares of three of the big four lenders declined between 0.4
percent and 1.6 percent, but National Australia Bank Ltd
was slightly higher.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.03
percent to 9,432.34, with losses in consumer stocks offset by
gains in industrials.
New Zealand listed shares of A2 Milk Company fell
2.7 pct, while those of Tourism Holdings rose 2.1 pct.
(Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam
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