Australia shares retreat on global growth anxiety; NZ up

* Financials lead fall in Australia

* Gold stocks up on safe-haven buying

* Pilbara soars after announcing commercial production at project

By Aditya Soni

March 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares stepped back on Thursday as signs of a broadening slowdown in the global economy jolted riskier assets around the world.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury bond yields fell again on Wednesday, keeping the yield curve inverted and leaving investors worried about the outlook for the world's largest economy. The growth anxiety dented Wall Street stocks.

James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut, said global uncertainties coupled with weak growth data at home and looming elections were prompting investors to minimize their risk.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was off 0.2 percent or 13.90 points to 6,122.10 by 0049 GMT.

The benchmark had tacked on 0.1 percent on Wednesday, reversing from earlier losses after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's shift to a dovish stance raised expectations of a rate cut by Australia's central bank.

McGlew said there is a high chance of a rate cut by Reserve Bank of Australia in the next six months.

Financials stocks, which account for nearly half of the benchmark, slipped 0.3 percent and dominated the losses.

The country's "Big Four" banks lost between 0.3 percent to 0.9 percent.

The CEOs of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank on Wednesday said a crackdown on consumer credit checks was affecting their ability to write new home loans even though approval rates were unchanged, a sign the tougher regulatory environment is squeezing the economy.

Energy stocks, hit by lower oil prices and global demand concerns, slid as much as 0.6 percent to their lowest since Feb. 12.

Elsewhere, gold stocks regained their sheen on safe-haven buying as investors sought conservative assets to shelter from the rising global risks.

Saracen Mineral Holdings Ltd rallied 3.3 percent to a five-week peak, while Dacian Gold Ltd climbed 2.7 percent.

Lithium miner Pilbara Minerals Ltd saw its best day in over three weeks as it soared 4.3 percent and was the top performer after it announced commercial production at its Pilgangoora project in Australia.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index retreated from a record high touched earlier in the session but traded 0.1 percent or 7.94 points higher at 9,706.83.

The benchmark soared on Wednesday after the country's central bank stunned investors by raising the possibility of a rate cut as its next move.

Air New Zealand Ltd rose as much as 3.5 percent to an over two-week high after it said it was launching a two-year cost reduction plan and deferred aircraft capital expenditures of about NZ$750 mln ($509.78 mln) as part of a business review. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru: Additional reporting by Anushka Trivedi Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

2019-03-28 03:26:55

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