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Australia: Shares slip on miners as trade tensions rise; New Zealand drops

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares gave up ground on Friday, with China-sensitive mining stocks leading the losses after trade tensions between the world's two largest economies escalated overnight.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.2 per cent or 14.7 points to 6,701.4 by 0204 GMT. The benchmark firmed 0.4 per cent on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that China was not living up to promises it made on buying agricultural products from American farmers, in a sign that the two sides are far from resolving a year-long trade war that has battered equities and impacted global growth.

"Post G-20, people were hoping that the trade war situation had gone away. But it does feel like if Trump starts his tweeting storms again, there is risk to the downside," Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut said.

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Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at a G-20 meeting in late June on a trade ceasefire to open the door for a resumption of negotiations, but existing tariffs remain in place and the two sides are believed to be still far apart on some key issues.

Mining stocks fell sharply and bore the brunt of the losses on the benchmark.

The world's biggest miner BHP Group was down 1 per cent, while its rival Rio Tinto slid 1.4 per cent.

Both firms are slated to report their quarterly production next week, with figures likely to reflect the impact of disruptions caused by a cyclone in late March.

Investors were also cautious ahead of release of Chinese trade data later in the day. A Reuters poll predicted that its exports likely fell in June as weakening global demand and a sharp hike in US tariffs weighed more heavily on the world's largest economy.

Gold stocks saw their worst day in one and a half weeks after recording sharp gains in the previous session.

The miners of the precious metal were also pressured by an ease in gold prices.

Regis Resources fell as much as 5.1  per cent, its sharpest drop in over three-weeks and was among the worst performers on the benchmark.

The country's fourth-largest firm, CSL, dipped 0.8 per cent, pulling health care stocks lower.

However, Oil Search climbed as much as 3.1 per cent to a seven-week high and was among the top gainers on the benchmark.

The Australian reported on Friday that Santos could be considering an acquisition of its US$7.6 billion rival Oil Search.

Santos said it does not comment on market speculation.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.3 per cent or 30.26 points to 10,657.06. The index closed at its highest ever level on Thursday.

Utilities accounted for most of the losses, with benchmark heavyweight Meridian Energy Ltd falling 1.4 per cent, while Mercury NZ saw its sharpest fall since July 3.

REUTERS