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Australia shares inch up, focus on Sino-US trade talks; NZ gains

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares pulled ahead on Monday, though buyers lacked conviction after two sessions of solid gains as investors looked to more developments on Sino-US trade talks amid tentative signs of easing tensions between the two economic giants.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.3 per cent or 16.3 points to 5,669.80 by 0053 GMT with base metals and financial stocks leading the gains. The benchmark ended 1.4 per cent higher on Wednesday.

Markets were cautiously optimistic on progress in Sino-US trade talks, helping spur Wall Street higher overnight.

The Chinese purchase of at least 500,000 tonnes of US soybeans on Wednesday came as the latest sign of easing trade tensions between the two countries.

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Market voices on:

"There is a bit of caution. We had a strong session yesterday and markets were a little bit ahead of the curve. Today, the market hasn't kicked on yet," said Christopher Conway, senior investment advisor at Marcus Today.

"Investors want more concrete concessions (in trade war)... So far, it has been all incremental gains, that could hopefully lead up to a final deal," he said.

Australia's resource-rich economy is heavily exposed to the Chinese market, so any drag in growth in the Asian superpower risks harming local businesses and overall growth.

Diversified mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto boosted the sector index, strengthening as much as 1.1 per cent and 1.21 per cent, respectively.

Gold stocks extended their slide for a second successive session following a recent rally. The losses pulled the index down as much as 1.6 per cent, with St Barbara falling over 6 per cent to be the top percentage loser.

Financials rose as much as 0.7 per cent with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rising 1.4 per cent and National Australia Bank up 1.1 per cent.

TPG Telecom plunged, losing as much as about 19 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage loss in over two years, after Australia's competition regulator expressed preliminary concerns about its proposed merger with Vodafone Group's Australian business. TPG was the top percentage loser on the benchmark.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent or 55.79 points to 8,794.15.

Seafood business firm Sanford was the top performer in terms of percentage gains, rising as much as 3.2 per cent.

REUTERS