September 24, 2019 / 6:34 AM / 2 months ago

Australia shares tread water ahead of c.bank governor's speech; NZ slips

* ANZ best performer among “Big Four” banks

* Higher bullion prices help gold stocks

* Markets cautious on weak global data (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

Sept 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares barely changed on Tuesday, ahead of a speech by the central bank governor, as gains in the financial sector were offset by declines for some resource stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was flat, losing less than one point to 6748.90 at the close. The benchmark advanced 0.3% on Monday.

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe’s speech, expected at 1005 GMT Tuesday, is awaited “mainly because of the impact it could have around the conversation on interest rate cuts next Tuesday when the RBA meets”, said Stephen Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec.

Financial futures are now pricing in an 80% chance of a rate cut by the RBA on Oct. 1, after data last week showed the domestic unemployment rate had increased to a one-year high in August.

“Depending on the commentary we get tonight, that could shift things a little”, Daghlian added.

Investors were also cautious on concerns of slowing growth with the United States and the Europe zone logging in weak economic data overnight.

The financial stocks subindex, which comprises more than three-fourths of the Australian benchmark, gained 0.3% to close at its highest since Feb. 5, 2018.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was the best performer among the “Big Four” lenders, ending 1.3% higher at a near three-month peak.

Gold stocks gained nearly 2%, driven by rising gold prices, which hit a high of over two weeks after the dismal euro zone data stoked global recession fears.

Gold producer Perseus Mining ended more than 3% higher at a near three-week peak, while Millennium Minerals Ltd end nearly 7% higher.

Offsetting these gains, the energy subindex finished 0.3% lower, dented by a slip in oil prices as investors worried about the gloomy outlook for demand following weak manufacturing data from Europe and Japan.

Index heavyweight Woodside Petroleum fell 0.7%, while Oil Search shed 0.4%.

The broader mining sector fell 0.4% at the close of the trading day, hurt by copper prices, which tumbled to their lowest in two and a half weeks.

Heavyweight BHP Group, which has been increasing its exposure to copper, fell almost 1% while diversified miner South32 shed almost 3% to hit a near three-week low.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ticked 0.1% or 11.9 points lower to finish at 10,861.35, dented by the consumer sector. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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