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Australian shares inch up amid subdued investor interest; NZ rises


[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed slightly firmer on Friday, but finished lower for a second consecutive week after heavy losses resulting from a global sell-off in the previous session.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.2 per cent, or 11.90 points, up at 5,895.70 but the benchmark was off 4.7 per cent for the week.

Losses in the energy and real estate stocks were offset by solid gains in the metals and mining space.

Aussie shares have shed more than 5 per cent almost halfway through the month with the Wall Street rout on Wednesday adding to the bearishness brought on by the Sino-U.S. trade war, and rising U.S. interest rates, and the IMF's forecast for a global economic slowdown.

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The metals and mining index led gains, finishing 2.2 per cent higher, with gold stocks glittering for a second straight session as the yellow metal benefited from its status as a safe haven during turbulent times.

Data from Australia's biggest trading partner China showed that September aluminium and steel exports remained steady.

"At the end of the day, China will keep making steel and there will be significant demand for iron ore. Iron ore prices are still holding up relatively well," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

Mining behemoths BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd finished 1.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent higher, while the world's No. 4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd closed 5.3 per cent higher.

The energy sector also closed 1.5 per cent weaker as crude prices retreated.

Brent crude futures fell 3.4 per cent on Thursday.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the country's largest independent oil and gas producer, closed 1.8 per cent down, while Santos Ltd finished 1.2 per cent down.

Adding to the subdued sentiment, Australia's central bank in its Financial Stability Review released on Friday highlighted the threat from a housing slowdown, even while emphasising that the economy overall was improving.

A Reuters poll earlier in the day had identified trade tensions and falling house prices as clear hurdles despite a forecast of solid economic growth in the country over the next couple of years.

The S&P/ASX Real Estate index closed 1.1 per cent down with Mirvac Group and Dexus featuring among the top per centage drags in the sector, finishing 2.6 per cent and 2.2 per cent down, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished up for the first time in 10 sessions, closing 1.4 per cent or 122.04 points higher at 8,843.24 but fell 4 per cent for the week.

a2 Milk Co was the top percentage gainer on the benchmark index, staging a good recovery to close 9.4 per cent higher after it finished down 11.5 per cent in the previous session.