January 10, 2019 / 1:32 AM / 6 months ago

Australian shares edge lower as BHP drags; NZ down

* Investors await details on U.S.-China trade talks

* BHP Group drags benchmark, shares trade ex-dividend

* Energy index jumps on strength in oil prices

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

Jan 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged lower on Thursday, as investors awaited further details on U.S.-China trade talks, while a slump in the world’s biggest miner BHP’s shares kept the benchmark in check.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 percent, or 5.8 points, to 5,772.5 by 0100 GMT. The benchmark gained nearly 1 percent on Wednesday.

Delegations from the United States and China ended talks on Wednesday that lasted longer than expected, with negotiations focused on Beijing’s pledge to buy a “substantial” amount of U.S. farm and energy commodities as well as increased access to China’s markets.

The meetings this week which are the first ever face-to-face talks since U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day truce have rejuvenated risk appetite, easing fears of an all-out trade war and its possible impact on global growth.

“The problem for the current trade situation is that detail is very important,” said Michael McCarthy, Chief Market Strategist at CMC Markets.

“While markets took it as good news that trade talks extended for a third day, the reality is that most people are aware that a substantial agreement is going to take a lot of time,” he added.

Australian markets are highly sensitive to developments in China, a major buyer of the country’s commodities and resources.

Energy stocks led gains on the benchmark, advancing as much as 1.6 percent to their highest since Nov. 19, 2018.

The sector was poised for sixth straight session of gains, as oil prices had rallied on hopes of a possible thaw in the Sino-U.S. trade spat, while OPEC-led crude output cuts also provided support.

Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum strengthened as much as 1.7 percent to a more than one-and-a-half month high, while Santos Ltd climbed 1.1 percent.

Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped as much as 1.1 percent to a more than one-year high, while St Barbara Ltd rose 0.9 percent.

However, Australia’s biggest-listed firm BHP Group, which traded ex-dividend, fell 4.3 percent, its biggest intraday percent loss in nearly 11 months, dragging the benchmark.

Meanwhile, gold stocks gained 1.1 percent with a weaker U.S. dollar making the precious metal more attractive. .

Elsewhere, shares of horticulture firm Costa Group Holdings Ltd plunged nearly 35 percent to an over 19-month low and was the worst performer after it cut its previously provided outlook for the half year.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 percent, or 19.99 points, to 8,927.23.

Industrial and healthcare stocks led losses, with Auckland International Airport falling 0.6 percent, while Genesis Energy slipped as much as 1.9 percent. (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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