November 16, 2018 / 2:17 AM / a month ago

Australian shares little changed as China caution prevails; NZ flat

* Australian shares set to weaken

* Resource stocks rise on higher commodity prices

* Financial stocks set to lose about 4 pct this week

By Niyati Shetty

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed on Friday amid thin volumes as uncertainty about U.S.-China trade relations kept investors cautious, despite a firmer Wall Street finish.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained just 5.9 points to 5,741.9 by 0126 GMT. The benchmark was on track to lose 3 percent this week.

U.S. equities rose overnight after the Financial Times reported that the U.S. trade representative said further tariffs on Chinese imports had been put on hold as the two nations pursue talks.

However a spokesperson later denied the report, although that did little to deter gains.

“We’re looking for a resolution in that (U.S.-China relations). Investors are cognizant of the fact that when these two economic giants sneeze, everybody gets a cold,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

He also noted that trading volumes in Australia were quite low for the time of the day.

Resource based stocks were firmer as commodity prices continued to recover. The metals and mining index gained 1 percent but was poised to lose 3.1 percent this week.

Oil prices rebounded overnight as U.S. stockpiles declined, while base metal prices also gained.

Mining giant BHP rose 1.4 percent, while peer Rio Tinto Ltd was 1.7 percent up.

Energy stocks gained as much as 1.2 percent but were on track for a second session of weekly losses.

Shares of oil and gas firm Santos Ltd rose as much as 2.2 percent after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that it would not oppose the company’s $2.15 billion acquisition of Quadrant Energy.

Financial shares recouped some of the week’s losses to gain 0.7 percent on Friday. The index was positioned to lose 4 percent this week.

Three of Australia’s “Big Four” banks gained, with the biggest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, rising as much as 1.2 percent.

Investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd gained as much as 3.4 percent after it raised its fiscal 2019 earnings growth outlook to 15 percent from 10 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 8,820.62 and was on track to lose 1.3 percent this week, snapping two weeks of gains.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation fell 1.5 percent, while A2 Milk gained 1.6 percent.

Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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