December 9, 2019 / 1:10 AM / 2 months ago

Energy stocks lift Australian shares; a2 Milk drags on NZ

* Rising oil prices boost energy firms

* Viva Energy drops 6.6% on bleak FY outlook

* NZ’s a2 Milk slumps 7.7% after sudden CEO resignation

By Niyati Shetty

Dec 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Monday, buoyed by energy stocks and tracking positive Wall Street leads after strong U.S. economic data, while a2 Milk Co weighed on the New Zealand index after a surprise CEO exit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.1%, or 89.2 points, to 6,716.20 by 0045 GMT. The benchmark was up 0.4% on Friday.

U.S. equities jumped on Friday after jobs growth in the world’s largest economy increased by the most in 10 months in November, easing fears of a slowdown.

“The health of the U.S. economy appears to be confirmed on that one data point,” said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

He added however that markets may not go too far due to issues such as weak Chinese export data released on Sunday, and with no substantial news on the trade front.

A top White House official on Friday said the Dec. 15 deadline is still in place for a new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, but President Donald Trump likes where trade talks with China are going.

“There is quite a lot of talking and not a lot of detail,” Argonaut’s Rooney said.

Energy stocks advanced as much as 1.6% as sector heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search climbed 1.7% and 2.3% respectively.

Oil prices jumped on Friday after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to deepen crude output cuts in early 2020.

Petroleum retailer Viva Energy Group, however, slumped 6.6% as it warned that it expects fiscal 2019 underlying net profit to fall by up to 41% from a year earlier due to fuel-margin pressures.

The mining sub-index rose as top iron ore miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group added between 0.9% and 1.2%.

Analysts are optimistic about demand from Chinese mills for the steel-making material in coming months, even though the country’s iron ore imports fell for a second straight month in November.

Gold stocks dropped as much as 2.9% to a near six-month low on falling bullion prices. Newcrest Mining slipped 3% and Evolution Mining fell 4.4%.

Administrative services provider Mcmillan Shakespeare Ltd plunged 13% and was the worst performer on the ASX benchmark after it flagged tougher market conditions.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined as much as 0.8% in early trade, before settling down 0.2% to 11,255.21 at 0045 GMT.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company Ltd slumped by up to 7.7% after it said Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka had unexpectedly stepped down from the role she took in July 2018.

Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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