June 13, 2019 / 6:40 AM / 2 months ago

Australian shares end flat, financials offset weak mining, energy stocks; NZ up

* Miners snap three straight sessions of declines

* Energy stocks down 2.4%

* Afterpay Touch slumps 12.1% on external audit (Updates to close)

June 13 (Reuters) - Australia’s benchmark share index closed little changed on Thursday as persistent trade worries and falling commodity prices weighed on resource-based stocks, while rate cut bets bolstered financials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended flat for a second day in a row, closing at 6,542.4 points. The benchmark had touched more than a decade high earlier this week.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to set a deadline for levying addition tariffs on Chinese goods and called the relationship with Beijing ‘testy’. Trade talks broke down in May and China has not confirmed there will be any meeting between U.S. and Chinese leaders on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit later this month.

Mining stocks declined 0.5%, snapping three sessions of gains, as base metal and iron ore prices retreated.

The trade war and rising tariffs pose threats to the health of the global economy as well as top metals consumer China’s economic growth.

Mining giants BHP Group fell 0.5% and Rio Tinto lost 0.6%, while South32 declined 0.9%.

Meanwhile, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, may have to sell its $1 billion stakes in South32 and BHP, and other commodity firms to meet tighter ethical investing rules adopted by its parliament.

The energy index dropped 2.4% as oil prices extended declines for a second day amid concerns of rising crude stockpiles and murky demand outlook.

Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search slipped 1.9% and 2.5%, respectively, while Beach Energy fell 5.7%.

Credit provider Afterpay Touch Group tumbled about 12% and was the worst performer on the benchmark, after Australia’s financial crime watchdog ordered an audit of the firm to ensure it was following anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

However, financials limited the session’s losses as investors flocked to high-yield banking stocks after mixed jobs data fanned rate cut bets, driving down Australian bond yields to historic lows.

The May labour report showed unemployment stayed at 5.2% when analysts had forecast a dip back to 5.1%, while new hiring surged by a surprising 42,300.

Top lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp advanced 0.7% and 0.3%, respectively.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 0.18% or 53.6 points to 10,0223.81.

Synlait Milk added 2.7%, while electricity retailer Meridian Energy rose 1%. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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