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Australia shares steady after downbeat China data; NZ level

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares traded cautiously on Friday after weak Chinese trade data raised fears that recovery in the Chinese economy may be short-lived.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up marginally at 0.01 per cent or, 0.4 points at 5435.9, on track for its biggest weekly drop in four weeks.

"At the moment we are fluctuating between red and green.. I think we are going to finish the week with a down day", said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

China's September exports fell 10 per cent from a year earlier, far worse than expected, while imports unexpectedly shrank after picking up in August.

China's exports had been expected to fall 3 per cent, slightly worse than in August, as global demand for Asian goods remains stubbornly weak despite heading into what is usually the peak year-end shopping season.

"(China data) was clearly taken negatively by the markets. That is why we are seeing resource stocks getting sold off today," Mr McGlew added.

Materials and financials were the biggest drag on the benchmark index.

Global miner BHP Billiton and rival Rio Tinto shed over 2 per cent each, while Fortescue Metals Group fell 1.5 per cent.

Shares of rare earths miner Iluka Resources Ltd were down for a second day after it reported a fall in September quarter sales on Thursday. The stock was down as much as 7.8 per cent.

South32 was up as much as 2 per cent.

The 'Big Four' Australian banks shed between 0.1 per cent and 0.7 per cent, pushing the financials benchmark 0.3 per cent lower. National Australia Bank Ltd weighed most on the index with a fall of 0.8 per cent.

Gold stocks slid 1.8 per cent with gold miners Northern Star Resources Ltd and Regis Resources Ltd among the top losers on the index.

Among energy-related stocks, Origin Energy was down as much as 1.8 per cent, while Woodside Petroleum Ltd fell 1.3 per cent, dragging the energy index down as much as 0.7 per cent.

But Whitehaven Coal Ltd was up 3.3 per cent as European next-year coal prices rose US$2.20 to US$65.45 a tonne.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,119.35.

Tegel Group Holdings Ltd and a2 Milk Company Ltd were the top two gainers on the benchmark, gaining as much as 4.8 per cent and 2.7 per cent respectively.

In contrast, Tower Ltd fell one per cent - the biggest loser on the index.