September 26, 2019 / 3:05 AM / 23 days ago

Australia shares slip on trade uncertainties; gold stocks, miners drag

* Investors sceptical about U.S.-China deal happening anytime soon

* Nearly all sectors in negative territory

* New Zealand lower

By Nikhil Subba

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares were marginally down on Thursday, led by declines in gold and mining stocks, as investors remained wary of a U.S.-China trade deal happening anytime soon.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped nearly 0.3%, or 22.1 points, to 6,688.1 by 0300 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.6% on Wednesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think and that the Chinese were making big agricultural purchases from the United States, including of beef and pork.

But market experts see a bit of scepticism around a trade deal happening soon in the Asia-Pacific region.

“A comment that a deal is possible and that China wants to do a deal according to the White House, is not a concrete step towards any resolution and markets are still aware that this is a complicated negotiation and it could take longer,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Highlighting heightened uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade negotiations, Trump delivered a stinging rebuke to China’s trade practices earlier in the week at the United Nations General Assembly.

The Australian gold index fell nearly 4% and was the worst performer on the benchmark, as political uncertainties in the United States stemming from an impeachment inquiry into President Trump drove investors to the safety of the dollar.

Dacian Gold Ltd tumbled as much as nearly 6%, while Westgold Resources fell about 5% to a near two-week high.

The broader mining index fell as much as 0.4% to an over two-week low, dragged by weakness in iron ore and steel prices.

The energy subindex slipped 0.3%, reflecting a decline in oil prices after U.S. crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose and as Saudi Arabia maintained a faster-than-expected recovery of its oil production.

Major oil and gas player Woodside Petroleum shed 0.5%, while Santos Ltd was trading almost 1% lower.

The heavy-weighted financial sector slipped almost 0.2%, pushing the benchmark slightly lower, with all the “Big four” banks in the red.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down about 0.2%, or 17.3 points, at 10,844.31, weighed by fall in telecom and healthcare sectors. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba, additional reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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