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Australia shares edge up, thanks to financials; NZ down

Australian shares eked out a small gain on Friday, helping the benchmark advance for a fourth straight week, but investors stayed cautious in spite of hopes for smoother US-China ties and Europe’s newly-unveiled monetary stimulus.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched 0.2 per cent or 14.3 points higher to 6,669.20 at the close of trade, helped by the financial sector. The benchmark finished the week up 0.3 per cent.

The United States on Thursday welcomed China’s renewed purchases of U.S. farm goods, such as soybeans, while President Donald Trump indicated the possibility of an interim pact with Beijing.

The European Central Bank (ECB) promised continued stimulus to the ailing euro zone economy through asset purchases.

“The psychology of the market is that they really are waiting for direction in a lot of those international things, particularly the U.S.-China situation”, said Doug Symes, senior client adviser at Novus Capital.

All major sectors ended lower on Friday, but the benchmark advanced because of a 0.6 per cent gain for the financial subindex , which reached its highest since Aug. 1.

The subindex rose 2.7 per cent this week, its biggest weekly gain since the one ended May 24.

Symes said the banking sector strength recently reflects that “people are feeling that banks are starting to implement a lot of the things” were requested by a Royal Commission that probed sector behaviour.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the best performer among the “Big Four” lenders, climbing about 1 per cent to a near six-week high at close.

Energy stocks reversed course to end the session 0.5 per cent lower, bruised by a decline in oil prices.

Oil and gas major Woodside Petroleum fell 0.4 per cent to its lowest level since Sept. 4, and Oil Search Ltd closed nearly 1 per cent lower.

Graphite miner Syrah Resources dropped about 8 per cent, contributing to the broader mining index’s 0.1 per cent slip.

Syrah Resources on Friday warned of a production cut in the third quarter and posted a rise in half-yearly losses.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 41.65 points to finish the session at 10,863.41, dragged lower by technology and energy stocks.

Software developer Vista Group International fell 3 per cent, while fuel retailer Z Energy Ltd shed 2.6 per cent at close.

Source: Economic Times