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Australia shares gain on firming trade deal hopes; NZ rises


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher in subdued trade on Friday, led by gains in energy stocks, on rising optimism about a US-China trade deal, but the market clocked its first weekly decline in six weeks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 per cent, or 38.5 points, to close at 6,716.10. The benchmark, however, marked its first weekly decline since the week ended Aug 23, closing 0.2 per cent lower. The index closed 0.5 per cent lower on Thursday.

China's commerce ministry said Beijing and Washington are still discussing details of upcoming trade talks in October, and making preparations to ensure "positive progress" is made during the negotiations, stoking hopes that the two sides would find a way out of their near 15-month old trade war.

The atmosphere around the trade spat also turned lighter after US President Donald Trump on Wednesday told reporters the two sides were having "good conversations" and that an agreement "could happen sooner than you think".

Market voices on:

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

"Markets are cautiously optimistic ... there are some signs the trade resolution could be certainly moving in the right direction," said James Tao, a market analyst at CommSec.

"There's no major indication that we are necessarily going to reach a deal or be closer to a deal, but that's just the market's interpretation of what we've seen from both sides."

The energy index gained about 1 per cent at close, hoisted by firmer oil prices over concerns of a Middle East conflict disrupting supply.

Majors in the oil and gas space Woodside Petroleum and Santos each ended about 1 per cent higher.

The technology and utility sub-indexes advanced more than 1 per cent each. Energy infrastructure firm AusNet Services rose nearly 2 per cent, while logistics software maker Wisetech Global closed 2.3 per cent up.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was top gainer among the "Big Four" lenders, which were all trading higher, helping the financial subindex rise about 0.5 per cent.

The broader mining index finished 0.3 per cent higher, as iron ore prices extended Thursday's gains.

Bucking the trend, gold stocks dropped nearly 2 per cent to their lowest since Sept 19 at close, with the bullion ending the week lower, as investors preferred the safety of the dollar in the wake of political uncertainties in the United States.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.1 per cent, or 13.7 points, to end at 10,836.50 boosted by energy and financial stocks.

The index also logged in a weekly gain, closing about 0.1 per cent higher, after two straight weeks in the red.