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Australia shares end flat; energy, financial stocks drag; NZ up

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended flat on Friday as gains in miners, on the back of stronger commodities prices and renewed confidence in the outcome of US-China talks, were offset by losses in energy and financial stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended flat at 5,862.80, after declining 0.4 per cent on Thursday. The benchmark snapped three sessions of weekly gains to end the week 0.7 per cent lower.

Mining stocks rallied for a fifth straight session, adding 6.5 per cent at the end of the week.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to secure a trade deal, with both sides committing to bring an end to the months-long trade war that has battered equities globally.

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China is the top buyer of Australian commodities exports and developments there can immensely affect local markets.

The world's biggest miner BHP Group advanced 0.5 per cent while rival Rio Tinto gained 0.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, hospital operator Healthscope Ltd soared to an eight-month high in the session after saying it would proceed with a A$4.18 billion (S$4.09 billion) takeover offer from Canadian investment firm Brookfield Asset Management

However, financial stocks were subdued ahead of a looming final royal commission report due Monday that is expected to bring widespread regulatory changes in the sector.

Australia and New Zealand Bank shed 0.4 per cent, and the country's top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 0.2 per cent.

Energy stocks inched 0.9 per cent lower and also pressured the benchmark, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd losing 1.3 per cent and was the top decliner on the sub-index.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.15 per cent or 13.83 points to finish the session at 8,999.17.

Leading the gains on the kiwi benchmark were retailer Kathmandu Holdings Ltd which added 2.5 pct, while electricity generator Meridian Energy rose 2.3 per cent.

REUTERS