* Financials weigh on index, fall up to 3%
* Local tech stocks hit near one-month low
* AstraZeneca puts COVID-19 vaccine trial on hold
* NZ stocks hit near three-week low
Sept 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell to their lowest in
more than five weeks on Wednesday, with tech stocks getting
hammered the most as investors took cues from declines in the
U.S. blue-chip technology sector that sent the Nasdaq into
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.4% to 5,866.1 by 0030
GMT, its lowest since Aug. 3, after Tuesday's 1% gain.
All three major U.S. stock indexes closed in negative
territory overnight as heavyweight tech firms like Apple Inc
, Microsoft Corp and Amazon Inc took a
Australian technology stocks followed their U.S.
peers lower, losing nearly 4% to hit their lowest since Aug. 13.
Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay gave up 6.6%, while
software firm Xero lost 3.5%.
Financials were the top drags on the benchmark index
with a drop of up to 3%. Major lenders Commonwealth Bank of
Australia and Westpac Banking Corp shed up to
Energy stocks declined as much as 3.7%, hitting
their lowest since May 4, as oil prices fell sharply overnight.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said it had paused a
late-stage trial of one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine
candidates after an unexplained illness in a study
Australian biotech firm CSL Ltd had said earlier
this week it would manufacture AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19
vaccine. CSL shares were down up to 3.1%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index
dropped as much as 1.2% to 11,752.780, its lowest since Aug. 21.
Financials were the top losers on the index, with local
shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New
Zealand Banking Group shedding up to 1.9% and 2.1%,
(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by