Australian shares fall; focus on Powell's speech, China data

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Nov 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Wednesday, with energy stocks leading the declines, as cautious investors eyed key data from China and U.S. Federal Reserve Chair's speech later in the day to gauge the pace of future interest rate hikes.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.4% to 7,222.30 by 2357 GMT.

While Fed Chair Jerome Powell will speak on the outlook for U.S. economy and the labour market, China's manufacturing data will also be on investors' radar amid rising protests against COVID-19 curbs in the country.

Local energy stocks fell 1.3% as Brent crude oil futures settled lower on concerns that OPEC+ would keep its output unchanged at its upcoming meeting.

Woodside Energy and Santos fell 0.9% and 1.6%, respectively.

Financials slid 0.7%, with the "Big Four" banks dipping between 0.2% and 0.8%.

Health stocks declined 1% tracking U.S. dollar lower ahead of Powell's speech.

Sector heavyweight CSL Ltd dropped 1.2%.

Local miners added 0.7% as iron ore prices climbed on China's moves to support struggling property developers.

Rio Tinto, BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group gained 0.3%-1.4%.

Rio Tinto also said it is planning to invest a further $600 million in renewable energy assets in Pilbara.

Gold stocks climbed 0.2% as gold prices rose on hopes of less aggressive Fed rate hikes.

Newcrest Mining gained 0.6%, while Northern Star Resources fell 0.3%.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.6% to 11,460.20. (Reporting by Echha Jain in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)



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