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Australia: Shares flat as investors eye Sino-US trade deal, New Zealand up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares made a tepid start on Friday as investors took a wait-and-see approach on the outcome of US-China trade talks given a lack of detail, with materials stocks posting losses on lower commodities prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1 per cent, or 5.10 points, to 5,800.40 by 0052 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Thursday and is on track for a 3.2 per cent weekly gain after a solid performance all week.

China's commerce ministry said trade talks with the United States in Beijing were extensive and helped to establish a "foundation" to resolve differences, but offered few details on key issues at stake. These include a scheduled US tariff increase on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports.

The months-long trade spat between the world's two largest economies has disrupted the flow of billions of dollars of goods, hurt the Chinese economy and stoked global growth concerns.

"Although the rhetoric of the US-China trade talks was positive, we have seen few concrete developments or statements," Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut said.

"We've seen some positive comments from China on adding stimulus to the market in terms of tax and easing banking restrictions which is hopefully positive. But I think investors are happy to stay on the sidelines and see if developments unleash," he added.

Mining stocks, which are highly exposed to the Chinese market, fell about 1 per cent, as an overnight fall in copper and iron ore prices dented their appeal.

Global mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost as much as 1.4 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, safe-haven gold stocks dropped 2.2 per cent and were on track to snap two sessions of gains, hurt by a slip in the price of the bullion.

Newcrest Mining and St Barbara pulled down the sub-index, falling between 0.8 per cent and 4.2 per cent.

Energy stocks rose 0.5 per cent and were poised for a seventh session of gains, as the sub-index benefited from continued strength in crude oil prices.

Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum firmed 0.4 per cent, while fuel refiner Caltex Australia gained 1.4 per cent.

Among other blue-chips, Treasury Wine Estates, the world's biggest-listed winemaker, saw its best day in over two years as it jumped as much as 8.1 per cent after flagging higher than expected pre-tax profit for the first-half.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 per cent or 46.07 points to 8,965.23.

Financials and healthcare stocks led gains, with real estate developer Goodman Property Trust rising 0.3 per cent, while dairy company A2 Milk Company strengthened 1.1 per cent.