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Australia: Shares edge lower as financials tug on resource gains; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares dipped in light trade on Thursday with Macquarie Group lower on succession concerns after the investment bank announced a new chief executive, although strong gains in gold stocks provided wider support for the market.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down a mere 1.6 points to 6,246 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 per cent on Wednesday.

Financials, which account for well over a quarter of the benchmark, slid as shares of Macquarie slumped as much as 4.7 per cent, their lowest in over a month.

Shares fell despite Australia's biggest investment bank maintaining its full year earnings guidance with investors cautious about the appointment of new chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake.

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"The outlook for them is positive, however, there seems to blowback on the succession of (outgoing CEO) Nicholas Moore," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

Macquarie has remained relatively unscathed by the Royal Commission into Australian banks, which has helped it outperform its peers. Analysts say the new appointment may have given investors a reason to take some profit on their Macquarie holdings.

On top of those losses, Australia and New Zealand Bank slipped 0.7 per cent, contributing to a 0.5 per cent decline in the sector index

While easing concerns about global trade tensions improved wider sentiment in Asia, Australian stocks remained under pressure.

Resource-based sectors were the only ones to inch out gains, helped by oil prices rising to over US$74.64 a barrel and a strong increase by Australia's largest listed gold miner, Newcrest Mining.

The gold index jumped nearly 4 per cent, after Newcrest reported a 15 per cent bounce in fourth-quarter gold output, meeting annual targets despite gold prices losing nearly 6 per cent so far this year.

The energy sector picked up after oil prices rose on data that showed US domestic crude inventories falling to their lowest levels since February 2015, easing worries of oversupply in the market.

The index was up 0.7 per cent, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos driving the gains, up 0.8 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.2 per cent or 20.15 points to 8,954.04.

Healthcare stocks led the gains, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd and Ryman Healthcare Ltd , down 1.1 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS