Australia shares slip on rising Sino-U.S. trade tensions, NZ up


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* Most major sectors fall, financials shed over 1%

* Markets tread water amid ratcheting trade tensions

By Rashmi Ashok

May 23 (Reuters) – Australian shares slipped on Thursday, with the mining and financial sectors leading declines, tracking global market moves as trade tensions spiked on reports the United States was considering curbs on a group of Chinese technology companies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3% or 16.80 points to 6,493.90 by 0104 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2% on Wednesday.

“I think investors will sit on the sidelines waiting to see what happens… We are not going to hear much until the G20 Summit,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

“Until then the trade war will be predominantly fought through media articles and that is not very positive,” he added.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported the U.S. administration was considering sanctions on Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision, which sparked fresh worries that the trade conflict was spiralling into a technology cold war.

The news wiped out the short-lived relief over Washington’s temporary easing of curbs against China’s Huawei, with investors largely unconvinced that trade talks were progressing in a conclusive direction.

Miners slumped 1.2%, shrugging off record high iron ore prices. Mining giants BHP Group and rival Rio Tinto fell as much as 1.8% and 1.3%, respectively.

However, Fortescue Metals Group managed to eke out gains of 2.4%, bouncing after a steep drop in the last session as shares traded ex-dividend.

Financials tumbled 1.1%, with all the “Big Four” lenders trading in negative territory. Westpac Banking Corp fell as much as 2.1%, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group lost 1.6%.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell least among them, down 0.9%.

Energy stocks slipped as demand outlook weakened. Santos shed 1.6% while sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum lost nearly 1%.

Bucking the trend, property and housing related stocks continued to benefit after Australia’s prudential regulator proposed easing of certain lending criteria for home loans earlier this week.

Construction materials supplier Adelaide Brighton rose 4.5% while CSR Ltd added 5.8%. Property developer Stockland Corp rose as much as 0.5%.

Among healthcare stocks, index heavyweight CSL Ltd rose as much as 0.8%, while Cochlear put on 2.3%.

Retailers also caught a break, with Wesfarmers rising 1.3% and rival Coles tacking on 0.5%. Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi rose as much as 1.5%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% or 23.61 points to 10,261.09.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company gained 1% while Fletcher Building added 1.1%.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes


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