Australia shares eke out slight gains as miners drag

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(Updates to close)

Oct 15 (Reuters) – Australian shares managed only modest gains on Tuesday, with sentiment hurt by concerns over a slowdown in top consumer China and declines in miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished up 0.1% at 6,652.00 for a fourth successive session of gains.

More evidence of weakness in the world’s second-largest economy, already battered by a bruising trade dispute with the United States, curbed risk sentiment.

China’s factory gate prices declined at their fastest pace in more than three years in September, data showed on Tuesday. The downbeat figures followed Chinese trade data on Monday showing a slide in exports picking up pace in September while imports contracted for a fifth straight month.

The clutch of weak Chinese economic data adds to lingering concerns about the feasibility of the trade deal announced by U.S. President Donald Trump late last week.

Trump on Friday called his “Phase 1” trade deal with China “by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made”but a Bloomberg report on Monday said China wants more talks before its President Xi Jinping agrees to sign the Phase 1 deal.

The mining sector, which produces the bulk of Australia’s exports, lost 1.3% after Chinese iron ore futures dropped to their lowest in more than two weeks on higher output at Brazil’s Vale SA and demand concerns in China.

Mining majors and index heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively.

The gold index too lost on the day, closing 0.2% lower, in line with broader metals.

However, financial stocks, another heavyweight sector, gained 0.3% to keep the benchmark in positive territory, with all “Big Four” banks finishing higher in the 0.1% to 0.6% range.

The gains in the top lenders came despite the country’s prudential regulator outlining proposals to increase the amount of equity banks need to support investments in large subsidiaries, and to reduce that for smaller units.

Health stocks proved another strong pocket of gains during the session, with the index posting a solid 1.4% gain, with medical technology firm Nanosonics Ltd tacking on 2.7% to be the top percentage gainer in the sector.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand benchmark closed up 0.2% at 11,045.34, marking its third straight session of gains.

Retirement village operator Arvida Group was the top percentage gainer on the New Zealand benchmark, closing 3.4% higher at a record high of NZ$1.54.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp extended its gains to a third successive session, putting on 2.6%, a day after it upgraded full-year guidance. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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