January 4, 2019 / 6:11 AM / 6 months ago

Aussie shares close weaker as global growth concerns weigh, NZ up

(Updates to close)

By Devika Syamnath

Jan 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares weakened on Friday, to end the first week of new year lower as Apple’s surprise revenue warning and dismal U.S. factory data fanned worries over the global economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO> lost 0.25 percent to close at 5,619.4 and fell 0.9 percent in a holiday-shortened week. The index had closed over 1.4 percent higher on Thursday.

Apple Inc blamed weaker China sales for its rare revenue forecast cut on Wednesday, raising worries that the there would be more fallout to come from the Sino-U.S. trade spat, and major trading partners of the two protagonists, like Australia, could suffer.

News of China-U.S. talks next week to resolve the trade dispute helped soothe some of those concerns, and helped limit the Australian market’s decline.

“You’re seeing trade optimism and safety trade running into Australia,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

The news also helped steady global oil prices, which reflected in local energy stocks that reversed losses to end 1 percent higher. Oil Search Ltd added 0.8 percent.

Financials lost 0.3 percent, with Aussie insurers feeling most of the pain after Suncorp Group on Thursday flagged heavy claims following a hailstorm last month in Sydney.

Suncorp, and fellow insurers QBE Insurance and Insurance Australia Group declined between 0.5 percent and 3 percent.

The sub-index of information tech stocks closed over 2 percent lower, mirroring Wall Street’s dip after Apple’s warning bells.

Gold stocks saw increased buying on safe-haven appeal, notching their best close in over 6 years. Gold miner Evolution Mining Ltd ended at a record high.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.1 percent higher, or 11.39 points at 8,743.76. It lost 0.5 percent in the two days it traded this week.

Power generation firm Meridian Energy Ltd was among the top gainers, adding 2.3 percent to close at a record.

Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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