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Australia, New Zealand: Shares slip on Sino-US trade jitters

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell in volatile trade on Thursday, tracking a decline in Wall Street futures after a report suggested that little progress had been made in Sino-US trade negotiations.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent or 16 points to 6,530.70 by 0104 GMT, after dropping about 0.7% on Wednesday.

While Wall Street had gained on Wednesday amid trade optimism, US futures dropped after the South China Morning Post reported that Washington and Beijing had made no progress in deputy-level trade talks held earlier in the week.

The report also said that the Chinese delegation is planning to leave Washington on Thursday after just one day of minister-level meetings.

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However, US stock futures recovered slightly after CNBC said that the White House denied reports that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He was planning to leave Washington on Thursday.

"This is completely led by the futures on the US market," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut. "The ebbing and flowing with regards to how the trade talks are going to end up seems to be almost daily."

"The wind was taken out of the sails 10 minutes before the market opened... clearly volatility is at the forefront of people's minds on a number of fronts."

Almost all ASX 200 sectors were in the red, with the heavyweight financial and mining stocks falling about 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's largest lender, fell about 0.4 per cent, while miner BHP Group shed 0.7 per cent.

Gold miner Resolute Mining was the biggest loser on the ASX 200, dropping more than 11 per cent after it said a roaster at its Syama gold mine in Mali has been taken offline.

The stock also weighed down the gold index, which fell about 0.8 per cent. However, the sector is the best performer on the ASX 200 this year, having added nearly 42 per cent as bullion prices continue to benefit from investors fleeing risk assets.

Packaging company Orora, however, was a bright spot as it clocked a record intraday gain. The stock was the biggest gainer on the ASX 200 after the firm said it would sell its Australasian fibre business and return the bulk of the proceeds to shareholders.

Pallets maker Brambles gained about 3.5 per cent after it reported a higher first-quarter revenue.

New Zealand stocks tracked their Australian peers lower, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index falling 0.2 per cent or 21.69 points to 10,920.49.

Energy retailers Mercury NZ and Contact Energy dropped around 1.5 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively.

REUTERS