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Australia shares fall amid doubts a US-China trade deal is near; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Gold miners and energy stocks pushed Australian shares down on Thursday due to lower prices while some domestic investors were sceptical about US President Donald Trump's comment that a trade deal with China could be reached soon.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.5 per cent or 32.6 points to 6,677.60 at the close, with all components of the benchmark down negative territory. The index shed 0.6 per cent on Wednesday.

Mr Trump said a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think and that the Chinese were making big agricultural purchases from the United States.

Australian stocks are particularly sensitive to developments on the Sino-US trade front, since China is Australia's largest trading partner.

Market voices on:

"A comment that a deal is possible and that China wants to do a deal according to the White House, is not a concrete step towards any resolution and markets are still aware that this is a complicated negotiation and it could take longer," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking, said there may be news about some friendly chats between Washington and Beijing every now and then, but noted that there was not much optimism about a ground breaking deal anytime soon.

"Aside from some agricultural products like soya bean and pork, I don't think America has much to offer as part of the mix in a trade deal," Mr Smoling added.

The Australian gold index ended nearly 4 per cent down and was the worst performer on the benchmark, as gold prices fell early on Thursday and the dollar remained firm.

Gold explorer West African Resources slumped 5.5 per cent, while peer Silver Lake Resources shed about 5 per cent to its lowest since June 17.

The broader mining index fell almost 1 per cent to a more than over two-week low, dragged by weakness in iron ore and steel prices.

The energy subindex ended the day's session about 1 per cent lower, hurt by a decline in oil prices after US crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose and as Saudi Arabia maintained a faster-than-expected recovery of its oil production.

Major oil and gas player Woodside Petroleum ended 1.3 per cent lower and Santos Ltd was nearly 2 per cent lower.

Most banks, including the Big Four, declined. The heavy-weighted financial sector declined 0.5 per cent to a one-week low.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed 0.4 per cent or 38.67 points to finish at 10,822.77, dragged by telecom and financial stocks.