Oct 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded cautiously on Friday after weak Chinese trade data raised fears that recovery in the Chinese economy may be short-lived.
The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up marginally at 0.01 percent or, 0.4 points at 5435.9, on track for its biggest weekly drop in four weeks.
“At the moment we are fluctuating between red and green.. I think we are going to finish the week with a down day”, said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.
China’s September exports fell 10 percent from a year earlier, far worse than expected, while imports unexpectedly shrank after picking up in August.
China’s exports had been expected to fall 3 percent, slightly worse than in August, as global demand for Asian goods remains stubbornly weak despite heading into what is usually the peak year-end shopping season.
“(China data) was clearly taken negatively by the markets. That is why we are seeing resource stocks getting sold off today,” McGlew added.
Materials and financials were the biggest drag on the benchmark index.
Global miner BHP Billiton and rival Rio Tinto shed over 2 percent each, while Fortescue Metals Group fell 1.5 percent.
Shares of rare earths miner Iluka Resources Ltd were down for a second day after it reported a fall in September quarter sales on Thursday. The stock was down as much as 7.8 percent.
South32 was up as much as 2 percent.
The ‘Big Four’ Australian banks shed between 0.1 percent and 0.7 percent, pushing the financials benchmark 0.3 percent lower. National Australia Bank Ltd weighed most on the index with a fall of 0.8 percent.
Gold stocks slid 1.8 percent with gold miners Northern Star Resources Ltd and Regis Resources Ltd among the top losers on the index.
Among energy-related stocks, Origin Energy was down as much as 1.8 percent, while Woodside Petroleum Ltd fell 1.3 percent, dragging the energy index down as much as 0.7 percent.
But Whitehaven Coal Ltd was up 3.3 percent as European next-year coal prices rose $2.2 to $65.45 a tonne.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,119.35.
Tegel Group Holdings Ltd and a2 Milk Company Ltd were the top two gainers on the benchmark, gaining as much as 4.8 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.
In contrast, Tower Ltd fell 1 percent - the biggest loser on the index.
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Reporting by Justin George Varghese; Additional Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru