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Australia shares tick down on Sino-U.S. trade angst; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Wednesday as Sino-US trade uncertainty ahead of talks between the leaders of the two countries and an overnight fall in commodity prices weighed on sentiment.

Investors were wary of buying into riskier assets amid conflicting comments from White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and US President Donald Trump on the likelihood of a thaw in the Sino-U.S. trade dispute.

Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are due to hold talks, centring on the contentious trade issues, on the sidelines of a G-20 gathering in Argentina at the weekend.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.06 per cent or 3.20 points at 5,725.10, after rising 1 per cent on Tuesday.

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A 1 per cent loss in metals and mining stocks, which hit their lowest level in nearly a year, dragged down the benchmark.

Iron ore futures in China firmed on Wednesday after expectations of slower demand pushed prices to their lowest level in four-and-a-half months in the previous session.

The downturn in commodity prices underscored broader worries globally about a slowdown in world trade, investment and growth, prompting equity investors to cut their losses or take money off the table before year-end.

Global miners BHP Group Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd fell 0.8 and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks ended lower, led by wealth manager AMP Ltd falling 3.3 per cent after it confirmed a total bill of A$778 million to compensate customers who had been wrongly charged or received bad advice.

Bucking the trend, Australia's healthcare sector, traditionally considered a safe haven during times of markets or economic stress, rose 0.1 per cent for its second day of gains.

Index heavyweights CSL Ltd and Resmed Inc advanced 0.2 per cent and nearly 1 per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.46 per cent to finish at 8,713.96, boosted by consumer and utilities stocks.

Mobile commerce developer Pushpay Holdings rallied nearly 5 per cent, while dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd rose 3.7 per cent.

REUTERS