May 15, 2019 / 1:30 AM / 7 months ago

Australia shares subdued as trade tensions weigh; NZ recovers

* Sentiment remains fragile amid trade tension

* Aussie trade volumes remain low

* Iron ore miners recover, gold stocks drop

By Rashmi Ashok

May 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched up in light trade on Wednesday as investors remained cautious despite U.S. President Donald Trump downplaying rising trade tensions with China.

Trading volumes were at a fraction of their thirty day average, suggesting that many investors were sidelined in the wake of the recent ratcheting up of U.S.-China trade tensions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 4.70 points or 0.1% to 6,244.60 by 0041 GMT. The index had fallen 0.9% to a month’s low in the previous session.

Trump on Tuesday downplayed the U.S.-China trade war as “a little squabble”, insisting that trade talks had not collapsed.

“Sentiment remains fragile and subject to the whims of trade headlines on either news tickers or social media accounts,” Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst, Asia Pacific, at OANDA said in a note.

“Although markets may etch some slight gains, one suspects a lot of money will remain on the sidelines as we await more clarity on the trade situation,” he said.

Miners rose as much as 1%, recovering after a sharp drop in the previous session. Index heavyweight BHP Group jumped 1.3% while rival Rio Tinto added 1.5%.

Fortescue Metals Group rose as much as 2.2%.

Energy stocks tacked on 0.9%. Top exporter Saudi Arabia said explosive-laden drones had attacked state oil company Aramco’s facilities, which pushed oil prices higher.

Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search advanced more than 1%.

Offsetting mining gains, financial stocks edged 0.1% lower, dragged by a small drop among the “Big Four” banks. National Australia Bank fell the most, down 0.3%, while top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 0.2%.

Gold stocks, which drew safe-haven bids during the sell-off across the previous two sessions, fell as much as 1%.

Northern Star Resources slumped 2.5%, while the country’s biggest gold miner Newcrest Mining edged slightly lower.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index bounced from a steep drop in the previous session, rising 0.4% or 39.62 points to 10,109.97.

Fletcher Building was among top gainers, rising 1.8%, while dairy giant a2 Milk Company jumped 1.3%.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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