December 11, 2019 / 1:54 AM / a month ago

Consumer, energy stocks lift Australian shares; NZ falls

* Webjet surges 11% on denying acquisition reports

* Westpac up 0.7% ahead of AGM on Thursday

* GrainCorp slips; appoints new CEO from NZ’s Fonterra

By Niyati Shetty

Dec 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday, led by gains in consumer and resource-based sectors, though trading volumes were low as a looming deadline for further U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods dampened risk appetite.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3%, or 17.10 points, at 6,724.0, as of 0120 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.3% lower on Tuesday.

“Although we have seen gains at the open there is not a lot of conviction in the buying that’s going through,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are laying the groundwork for a delay of a fresh round of tariffs set to kick in on Dec. 15, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

However, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the “tariffs are still on the table”.

Trading in the Australian stock market has dipped over the past week as investors refrain from making big bets before China or the United States provide concrete details about their next trade move.

Consumer heavyweights Woolworths Group and Coles Group Ltd, considered defensive stocks, gained 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively.

Online travel agency Webjet Ltd, which was the top gainer in the ASX benchmark, surged 11.2% after the company denied local media reports citing takeover plans.

Gold units rose nearly 1% as prices of the safe-haven metal edged higher. Evolution Mining Ltd gained 1.6%, while Northern Star Resources Ltd was trading up 1.3%.

Energy stocks advanced on overnight gains in oil prices, with Oil Search Ltd adding 1.4% and Woodside Petroleum Ltd climbing 0.4%

Australia’s second-biggest lender Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.7%, ahead of its annual meeting where the bank is expected to face investor rage over a money laundering scandal.

Westpac shares have lost about 8% since the disclosure three weeks ago.

Shares of GrainCorp Ltd dropped 0.5% as the bulk grain handler announced the appointment of Fonterra executive Robert Spurway as its new chief executive after the demerger of its malt business.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2%, or 25.07 points, to 11,284.22.

Auckland International Airport declined 1.1% and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp lost 1.2%.

Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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