November 23, 2018 / 1:37 AM / in 5 months

Aussie shares gain but slated for 2nd weekly loss; NZ up

* Banks lead gains

* Energy stocks poised to lose nearly 4 pct this week

By Niyati Shetty

Nov 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares firmed in thin trade on Friday but were on track for a second week of losses as prospects of slackening global growth and Sino-U.S. trade tensions sapped investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent or 20.2 points to 5,712.9 by 0115 GMT. The benchmark was set to lose 0.3 percent this week.

The World Trade Organisation said on Thursday that trade restrictions imposed by the G20 countries between mid-May and mid-October soared to cover $481 billion of trade, and warned that further escalation would increase global economic risks.

“There are real concerns about the outlook for global growth, a lot of this centres around the trade disputes. The G20 meeting next Friday is potential for further headlines around the trade dispute between China and the U.S. and that pushed the markets around,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet at the G20 summit in Argentina next week.

“Any signs of agreement or even an agreement to stop escalating the trade wars would be a positive to the markets but if it becomes apparent that the disputes are on-going and potentially worsening we could see markets react negatively,” McCarthy added.

Volumes were light with U.S. equity markets closed for Thanksgiving.

“Not a great deal of commitment in trading this morning,” McCarthy said.

Financial stocks rose 0.8 percent and were on track for a weekly gain. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was 1.6 percent higher and National Australia Bank advanced 0.8 percent.

Energy shares reversed course to gain 0.4 percent but were in line to lose nearly 4 percent this week. Oil & gas explorer Woodside Petroleum Ltd advanced 1 percent while Oil Search gained 1.5 percent.

However, the sub-index of metals and mining shares fell 0.5 percent and was poised for a second week of heavy declines. Sector heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost around 0.8 percent each.

Automotive Holdings Group Ltd plunged nearly 10 percent after it said it expected operating profit in fiscal 2019 to be weaker than its fiscal 2018 results.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose marginally to 8,713.18. The index was positioned to fall for a second straight week.

a2 Milk Company gained 0.5 percent while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation was 0.9 percent up.

Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru

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