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Australia, NZ shares end firmer as China fires up trade deal hopes

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares climbed more than 1 per cent on Friday, led by gains in miners and banks as investors were cheered by signs of a thaw in stalled Sino-U.S. trade talks.

Australia's S&P 200 index closed higher for a second straight week. It climbed 1.5 per cent, or 96.8 points, to end at 6,604.2 on the day.

China's commerce ministry said a September round of meetings was being discussed with Washington, but added it was important for Washington to cancel a tariff increase.

Investors also looked to China's official manufacturing survey, expected over the weekend, which would provide a good gauge of the real impact from the Sino-U.S. trade war.

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However, Australia's benchmark saw its worst monthly loss since October and fell over 3 per cent in August, a month dominated by several trade war flare-ups and global recessions fears.

Positive trade salvo helped mining stocks tack on 1.6 per cent for the day.

Resources, especially iron ore, is the top revenue-earner for Australia as China is the biggest buyer of these exports. The country's commodities firms are thus sensitive to developments in U.S.-China trade talks.

Iron ore miners BHP Group Ltd, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals rose between 2.2 per cent and 4.2 per cent.

Heavyweight banking stocks led gains on the main index, with the "Big Four" notching up between 1 per cent and 2.1 per cent.

High-growth technology units also ended nearly 2 per centhigher, mirroring trade-sensitive Wall Street peers.

Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay Touch Group Ltd closed at a record high, after stellar US growth numbers it posted this week provided added impetus.

Blue-chip healthcare stocks also benefited from improved risk sentiment, with biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd and hearing implant maker Cochlear Ltd jumping 2.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

While signs of easing trade tensions placated recession fears, it weighed on the safe-haven appeal of gold stocks and sent them 0.9 per cent lower, the only sector that ended in the red.

Gold miner Evolution Mining declined 1 per cent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark index surged 1.7 per cent, or 177.13 points, to 10,757.2. It added 1.3 per cent this week, its best weekly gain since late June.

Vista Group International Ltd, a software developer for the film industry, added 4.9 per cent and was the top gainer on the benchmark.

REUTERS