Australian shares inch up, miners sag on China demand worry

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Oct 15 (Reuters) – Australian shares notched modest gains on Tuesday, as mixed signals on Sino-U.S. trade curbed risk taking, while mining stocks stumbled after weak trade data from top consumer China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1% or 4.2 points to 6,646.8 by 0054 GMT. It has collectively gained 1.5% in the previous three sessions.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called his “Phase 1” trade deal with China “by far, the greatest and biggest deal ever made,” even though nothing was agreed on paper.

A Bloomberg report on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter, said China wants more talks as soon as the end of October before Chinese President Xi Jinping agrees to sign the Phase 1 deal.

“It’s important to note that the pullbacks are fairly modest…it did not turn into support for safe havens and that suggests what we’re seeing is a corrective measure after a strong rally rather than a reversal of sentiment,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

“It’s quite possible we might see a positive close to the share market today,” McCarthy added, saying investors are seeing the minor fall as a buying opportunity.

The mining sector, which produces the bulk of Australia’s exports, lost as much as 1.5% after iron ore prices slumped overnight on demand concerns in China.

Mining majors BHP Group and Rio Tinto gave up 1.2% and 1.6%, respectively.

China’s September imports contracted for a fifth straight month, data showed on Monday, pointing to further weakness in China, Australia’s biggest trade partner.

Heavyweight financial stocks advanced as much as 0.3%. National Australia Bank climbed 0.6%.

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

Elsewhere, the gold index was down as much as 1.3%.

Shares of Australia’s biggest gold producer, Newcrest Mining Ltd, declined up to 1.7% to its lowest in more than two months despite news it would go ahead with a $685 million first-stage expansion of its flagship Cadia mine in New South Wales.

The New Zealand benchmark inched up 0.2% and was set for its third session of gains.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp added as much as 4% to scale a new high, a day after it upgraded full-year guidance. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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