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Australia shares flat, James Hardie hit by profit warning; NZ up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were little changed on Friday on a lack of conviction after an unspiring performance on Wall Street, with lingering anxiety over US President Donald Trump's aggressive posture on trade and international relations checking sentiment.

US stocks ended little changed on Thursday after Mr Trump said he would like to speed up talks to either renegotiate or replace the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Mr Trump's policy priorities, especially those on restricting immigration and rewriting trade deals, have jolted global markets in recent weeks and sharply curtailed risk appetite.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up a touch by 0.1 per cent or 5.866 points to 5651.3 around 0116 GMT. The benchmark ended 0.14 per cent lower on Thursday.

While investors will look to US nonfarm payrolls data due later in the global day for clues on Federal Reserve policy outlook, Tony Farnham, an economist at Patersons Securities, said: "Markets are not getting too excited ahead of the US jobs data tonight."

At home, while falls in materials and energy stocks hampered the market, James Hardie, the world's biggest maker of fibre cement home panelling took a hammering after a profit-warning.

It was the worst performer on the main index, slumping 3.8 per cent to its lowest in over two months and marked the biggest loss for the stock in over nine months after reporting a 6 per cent fall in third-quarter profit and lowered its full-year profit guidance.

The metals and mining index fell 0.8 per cent on profit-taking after two sessions of gains.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were down over one per cent each while Fortescue Metals lost 2.5 per cent.

The materials index dropped 0.9 per cent.

Gold stocks, however, gained following a 11-week high in gold prices on growing concerns of uncertainty after the US Federal Reserve's latest statement gave no clear signal on when its next rate hike would come.

OceanaGold was the biggest gainer on the gold index , soaring 11.2 per cent for its biggest percentage gain in more than seven months.

The energy index took a breather from its rally in the previous session, falling 0.4 per cent as oil prices edged lower on Thursday after investors downplayed the tensions between the United States and Iran.

Woodside Petroleum slipped 1.1 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.45 per cent or 32.31 points to 7085.85 with healthcare, telecom and utility stocks leading the gains.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare added 2.1 per cent while Genesis Energy rose 1.4 per cent.


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