Australia shares little changed as U.S. retail caps broader gains; NZ down


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* Aussie shares set for weekly loss

* Domain Holdings jumps on strong H1 revenue

* Whitehaven Coal top drag on benchmark

By Nikhil Subba

Feb 15 (Reuters) – Australian shares were little changed on Friday as worries about the U.S. retail sector capped broader gains that were driven by the energy sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.08 percent, or 4.6 points, to 6,064.7 by 0040 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Thursday and remains on track for a weekly loss.

Wall Street fell overnight after U.S. December retail sales posted their worst decline in over nine years, a sign people spent less even during the holiday season and fuelling concerns growth in the world’s largest economy was slowing.

“There’s no doubt that those factors are affecting sentiment, and even with U.S.-China trade tariffs, there’s a lot of uncertainty, which the markets are finding difficult to price,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

He said markets would remain cautious until further developments on trade talks unfold. Bloomberg on Thursday said Trump was considering pushing back the March 1 deadline for higher tariffs on Chinese goods by 60 days.

Lynas Corp soared as much as 8.2 percent to a more than two-month peak after the minerals miner reached an agreement with the Malaysian government on the management of its mining waste.

The healthcare sector declined 0.5. percent, weighed by heavyweight CSL Ltd’s 1 percent fall and Healthscope Ltd’s 0.8 percent slip.

Scandal-hit wealth manager AMP Ltd fell as much as 2.7 percent following weak outlook on Thursday.

Three of the country’s “Big Four” banks – Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp – also traded lower.

Energy stocks outperformed, driven higher by a rise in oil prices, with Beach Energy up 2.4 percent at a four-month high, while Oil Search rose 0.4 percent to a week’s high.

Whitehaven Coal was the biggest drag on the benchmark, with its shares falling as much as 4.4 percent after the coal miner lowered its production forecast for 2019 and said it expects costs to rise for the year.

Property classifieds platform Domain Holdings Australia rose as much as 11.9 percent to a near two-week high after posting stronger-than-expected first-half revenue on Friday.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.7 percent to 9,263.81.

A2 Milk and Auckland International Airport were top drags on the benchmark, both sliding to a week’s low.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes


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