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Australia: Shares slip on rising Sino-US trade tensions, New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Thursday, with the mining and financial sectors leading declines, tracking global market moves as trade tensions spiked on reports the United States was considering curbs on a group of Chinese technology companies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 per cent or 16.80 points to 6,493.90 by 0104 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

"I think investors will sit on the sidelines waiting to see what happens... We are not going to hear much until the G-20 Summit," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

"Until then the trade war will be predominantly fought through media articles and that is not very positive," he added.

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On Wednesday, Reuters reported the US administration was considering sanctions on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision, which sparked fresh worries that the trade conflict was spiralling into a technology cold war.

The news wiped out the short-lived relief over Washington's temporary easing of curbs against China's Huawei, with investors largely unconvinced that trade talks were progressing in a conclusive direction.

Miners slumped 1.2 per cent, shrugging off record high iron ore prices. Mining giants BHP Group and rival Rio Tinto fell as much as 1.8 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

However, Fortescue Metals Group managed to eke out gains of 2.4 per cent, bouncing after a steep drop in the last session as shares traded ex-dividend.

Financials tumbled 1.1 per cent, with all the "Big Four" lenders trading in negative territory. Westpac Banking Corp fell as much as 2.1 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.6 per cent.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell least among them, down 0.9 per cent.

Energy stocks slipped as demand outlook weakened. Santos shed 1.6 per cent while sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum lost nearly 1 per cent.

Bucking the trend, property and housing related stocks continued to benefit after Australia's prudential regulator proposed easing of certain lending criteria for home loans earlier this week.

Construction materials supplier Adelaide Brighton rose 4.5 per cent while CSR Ltd added 5.8 per cent. Property developer Stockland Corp rose as much as 0.5 per cent.

Among healthcare stocks, index heavyweight CSL rose as much as 0.8 per cent, while Cochlear put on 2.3 per cent.

Retailers also caught a break, with Wesfarmers rising 1.3 per cent and rival Coles tacking on 0.5 per cent. Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi rose as much as 1.5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 23.61 points to 10,261.09.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company gained 1 per cent while Fletcher Building added 1.1 per cent.