All 11 sectors of the ASX 200 dropped on Wednesday, bringing the index down 0.66 per cent to close at 5935. The sector hit the hardest was telecommunications.
Fears over a looming global trade war following Trump's controversial tariffs linger, and Wall Street fell after an unexpected fall in US retail sales.
Markets are palpably uneasy, with investors' trade war worries not assuaged by the appointment of Larry Kudlow – a CNBC personality and former Reagan administration official who favours free trade – to replace Gary Cohn as US President Trump's top economic advisor.
New Zealand posted gross domestic product growth of 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, falling short of expectations as hot weather hampered dairy production.
The data prompted a sell-off in the New Zealand dollar which slipped to US73.03¢ from around US73.30¢.
The economy's annual growth rate was 2.9 per cent, below the 3.1 per cent expected by analysts, who had on average forecast 0.7 per cent quarterly growth.
The tepid result was largely due to weakness in production of dairy, the country's top good export, which saw agricultural production fall 2.7 per cent.
Australian shares are poised for an uncertain start after Wall Street dipped on weakness in US consumer spending. Futures trading pointed to an five-point fall in the ASX at the open.
The focal point for US investors was an unexpected fall in US retail sales in February - the third straight month of declines, according to Commerce Department figures.
The recent deceleration in retail sales "is particularly disappointing given the boost to disposable incomes coming from the tax cuts , which arrived in February," Capital Economics said.
The S&P 500 index closed down 0.6 per cent per cent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.2 per cent. The Dow Jones fell 1 per cent.
Stocks briefly pared losses after economic analyst and commentator Larry Kudlow , who has supported free trade measures in the past, said on Wednesday he had accepted an offer to replace Gary Cohn as the White House's top economic adviser.
But in an interview with CNBC just before the market close, Kudlow said he believed tougher trade measures against China were warranted.
European miners gained in a downbeat session where the overall market mood was soured by Italian political jitters.
Italy's FTSE MIB index fell 1.1 per cent, turning lower after right-wing leader and Italy's aspiring prime minister Matteo Salvini reiterated his party's view that the euro was a flawed currency.
The showdown between Britain and the Kremlin about how a Soviet-era nerve toxin was used to attack a Russian ex-spy had little impact on British shares.
Insurer Prudential climbed 5.1 per cent after it said it would demerge its UK and Europe retirement and asset management business from its international insurance business.