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Australia shares snap 6 days of gains on trade war fears; NZ at new peak

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended lower on Thursday, ending six straight sessions of gains, as global stocks slipped on concerns US-China trade frictions were spilling into the technology sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 per cent or 18.90 points to 6,491.80. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

"As ever, the sentiment is vulnerable to headline flashes on trade," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia-Pacific at OANDA, said in a note.

"We can expect this sort of flip-flopping in sentiment daily until more clarity emerges on any progress on the US-China trade front," Halley 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.

After recent curbs against Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies, investors worried trade talks between the world's two largest economies would be at a stalemate.

Miners slumped 1 per cent, shrugging off record high iron ore prices. Mining giants BHP Group and rival Rio Tinto fell 2per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

However, Fortescue Metals Group managed to eke out gains of 1 per cent, recovering after a steep drop in the last session as shares traded ex-dividend.

Financials tumbled 1 per cent, with all the "Big Four" lenders trading in negative territory. Westpac Banking Corp fell 2.3per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.6per cent.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell the least among them, down 1.1 per cent.

Energy stocks ended down 1.3per cent as the outlook on demand weakened. Santos shed 2 per cent while sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum lost 1.1per 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 6.3per cent while CSR Ltd added 5.7 per cent. Boral gained 1.2per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent or 25.93 points to 10,263.41, a new all-time high.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company edged slightly higher while Fletcher Building added 3 per cent. 

REUTERS