Australia shares advance despite trade talk angst; NZ inches higher

Australian shares closed higher on Friday in cautious trade after US President Donald Trump said trade talks with China were “moving right along”, capping a see-saw week as hopes for a an agreement rose and fell.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.4 per cent higher at 6,707.00 points. But it fell 2 per cent on the week, its biggest weekly percentage fall since Oct. 4. The benchmark rose 1.2 per cent on Thursday.

Trump’s upbeat tone on trade on Thursday was enough to spark buying, even as Chinese officials insisted existing tariffs must be removed as part of an interim deal to defuse the trade war. Earlier in the week, Trump rattled markets by saying a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 US election.

A new round of US tariffs on Chinese imports is due to take effect on Dec. 15.

“Markets don’t expect the next round of tariffs, but are sceptical we will see a phase one deal this side of the Christmas holiday,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The heavyweight financial sub-index closed 0.3 per cent higher, though Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the only stock among the “big four” lenders to finish in positive territory.

Healthcare stocks advanced over 1 per cent, helped by index heavyweight CSL Ltd which ended 1.2 per cent higher, and medical technology company Avita Medical Ltd which rose 3.4 per cent at session end.

Oil and gas explorer Beach Energy rose 3.8 per cent while Woodside Petroleum ended 0.5 per cent higher, helping the energy sector finish the session 0.3 per cent higher. The sub-index, however, saw its worst weekly percentage loss in over two months.

Bucking the trend, the mining sector slipped 0.2 per cent at close, dragged lower by a fall in ironore prices, while marking its biggest weekly loss in nearly two months.

Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group closed 0.6 per cent lower, while the world’s largest miner BHP Group slipped 0.1 per cent lower at the end of the session.

Over the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.2 per cent or 18.41 points to finish the session at 11,276.20. The New Zealand benchmark clocked in a weekly loss of 0.4 per cent, its biggest percentage fall since the five days ended Oct. 25.

Electricity retailer Mercury NZ Ltd ended the day with a 3 per cent gain, while agribusiness company Scales Corp concluded up 1.4 per cent.


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