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Australian shares fall on fear US-China trade fight to worsen; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Friday, as investors feared an escalation in US-China trade frictions and sold telecom shares that advanced a day earlier on a merger deal announced by TPG and Vodafone's Australian unit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5 per cent lower at 6,319.5, but added 1.2 per cent for the week.

Telecom stocks suffered the heaviest losses, a day after rising as TPG Telecom and Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia), Vodafone Group's Australian unit, agreed to merge into a larger third player in the sector.

TPG dropped more than 7 per cent while Hutchison plunged more than 25 per cent.

Telstra , which gained on Thursday, shed 4 per cent. It faces a review into its copper network by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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Bloomberg reported that US President Donald Trump is ready to impose tariffs on US$200 billion more in Chinese imports as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends next week.

Official data that showed China's manufacturing sector unexpectedly picked up in August, after a two-month slide, did little to boost confidence, even in the resource space, as trade tensions were on investors' minds.

China is Australian largest trading partner.

Mr Trump's latest salvo saw commodity prices slip, undermining material stocks, resulting in the sector index falling 1.7 per cent.

"It is going to continue to potentially trouble the base metal complex. Saying that, we have a natural Aussie dollar hedge which helps out but uncertainty is no friend to the market," Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

"I think the tariff issue is not going away in the short term."

Global miners BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

The only sector eking out some gains was healthcare. The weaker Aussie dollar helped prop up shares in a sector reliant on exports and overseas operations.

Primary Health Care and Ramsay Health Care topped the gains, up 3 per cent and 2.2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent, or 26.68 points to 9,313.2, but closed the week 1.7 per cent higher. It was the market's fourth straight weekly gain.

Shares of the world's biggest dairy exporter Fonterra Co-operative Group declined 0.2 per cent. It cut its farmgate milk price for 2018-2019 by 3.6 per cent.

a2 Milk Company and Synlait Milk fell 0.6 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.


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