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Australia shares subdued as trade tensions weigh; New Zealand recovers


[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched up in light trade on Wednesday as investors remained cautious despite US President Donald Trump downplaying rising trade tensions with China.

Trading volumes were at a fraction of their thirty day average, suggesting that many investors were sidelined in the wake of the recent ratcheting up of US-China trade tensions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 4.70 points or 0.1 per cent to 6,244.60 by 0041 GMT. The index had fallen 0.9 per cent to a month's low in the previous session.

Mr Trump on Tuesday downplayed the US-China trade war as "a little squabble", insisting that trade talks had not collapsed.

Market voices on:

"Sentiment remains fragile and subject to the whims of trade headlines on either news tickers or social media accounts," Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, said in a note.

"Although markets may etch some slight gains, one suspects a lot of money will remain on the sidelines as we await more clarity on the trade situation," he said.

Miners rose as much as 1 per cent, recovering after a sharp drop in the previous session. Index heavyweight BHP Group jumped 1.3 per cent while rival Rio Tinto added 1.5 per cent.

Fortescue Metals Group rose as much as 2.2 per cent.

Energy stocks tacked on 0.9 per cent. Top exporter Saudi Arabia said explosive-laden drones had attacked state oil company Aramco's facilities, which pushed oil prices higher.

Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search advanced more than 1 per cent.

Offsetting mining gains, financial stocks edged 0.1 per cent lower, dragged by a small drop among the "Big Four" banks. National Australia Bank fell the most, down 0.3 per cent, while top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 0.2 per cent.

Gold stocks, which drew safe-haven bids during the sell-off across the previous two sessions, fell as much as 1 per cent.

Northern Star Resources slumped 2.5 per cent, while the country's biggest gold miner Newcrest Mining edged slightly lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index bounced from a steep drop in the previous session, rising 0.4 per cent or 39.62 points to 10,109.97.

Fletcher Building was among top gainers, rising 1.8 per cent, while dairy giant a2 Milk Company jumped 1.3 per cent.