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Australian shares close weaker as global growth concerns weigh; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares weakened on Friday, to end the first week of new year lower as Apple's surprise revenue warning and dismal US factory data fanned worries over the global economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.25 per cent to close at 5,619.4 and fell 0.9 per cent in a holiday-shortened week. The index had closed over 1.4 per cent higher on Thursday.

Apple Inc blamed weaker China sales for its rare revenue forecast cut on Wednesday, raising worries that the there would be more fallout to come from the Sino-US trade spat, and major trading partners of the two protagonists, like Australia, could suffer.

News of China-US talks next week to resolve the trade dispute helped soothe some of those concerns, and helped limit the Australian market's decline.

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"You're seeing trade optimism and safety trade running into Australia," said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

The news also helped steady global oil prices, which reflected in local energy stocks that reversed losses to end 1 per cent higher. Oil Search Ltd added 0.8 per cent.

Financials lost 0.3 per cent, with Aussie insurers feeling most of the pain after Suncorp Group on Thursday flagged heavy claims following a hailstorm last month in Sydney.

Suncorp, and fellow insurers QBE Insurance and Insurance Australia Group declined between 0.5 per cent and 3 per cent.

The sub-index of information tech stocks closed over 2 per cent lower, mirroring Wall Street's dip after Apple's warning bells.

Gold stocks saw increased buying on safe-haven appeal, notching their best close in over 6 years. Gold miner Evolution Mining Ltd ended at a record high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.1 per cent higher, or 11.39 points at 8,743.76. It lost 0.5 per cent in the two days it traded this week.

Power generation firm Meridian Energy Ltd was among the top gainers, adding 2.3 per cent to close at a record.

REUTERS