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Australian shares weaker as Sino-US trade woes hit miners; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Friday as fresh concerns about a US-China trade deal hit commodity prices and mining stocks while financials extended their recent declines.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.1 per cent lower at 6,175.20. The benchmark snapped three weeks of gains to decline 0.5 per cent this week.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the summit to seal the deal between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will not happen at the end of March as previously discussed.

Mining stocks lost 1.3 per cent as Shanghai nickel fell nearly 2 per cent and copper extended losses in early trade on Friday after hopes dimmed of reaching an agreement to resolve the long-drawn trade war soon.

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The trade dispute has taken a toll on the slowing Chinese economy, which is a major cause of concern for Australia, which relies heavily on China for its raw materials exports.

Global miner BHP Group Ltd slipped 1.8 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd was down 1.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, the gold stocks snapped two weeks of losses to rise 2.2 per cent this week. The index fell 2.1 per cent on Friday.

The financial sector pared some of its earlier losses but fell for a sixth straight session. The index declined 1.2 per cent this week.

Weighing on the index, lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd faltered 1 per cent after Morgan Stanley downgraded its rating to "underweight" from "equal-weight".

Peers Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively.

In other sectors, the energy sub-index rose 0.6 per cent as oil prices firmed after a supply deficit emerged amid disruptions.

Index heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd advanced 0.9 per cent and Caltex Australia Ltd added 1.6 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 0.4 per cent, or 37.77 points, to 9,473.27. The benchmark gained for a sixth straight week.

Auckland International Airport Ltd rose 1.8 per cent and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd ended up 0.5 per cent.

However, dairy giant Fonterra fell 1.8 per cent on Friday after it cut its milk collection output for 2018/2019 for a second time this year. 

REUTERS