October 10, 2019 / 6:45 AM / 10 days ago

Australian shares flat as investors wait for outcome of crucial trade talks

(Updates to close)

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Thursday as uncertainty over the outcome of U.S.-China trade talks kept most investors on the sidelines, with small gains in financial stocks outweighing losses in resources.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended the day at 6,547.1. The benchmark lost 0.7% on Wednesday.

Sentiment had dampened following a report that the Chinese delegation was planning to cut short its Washington visit, but a separate report later in the day stating that both nations may resolve some of their disputes provided some relief to markets.

The likelihood of a partial deal remains a more likely scenario than a broad agreement as both economies show signs of slowing down.

Financial stocks tipped higher, helped by gains from Macquarie Group which rose 1%.

AMP Ltd dipped 0.3%. The company had said it will merge its banking and Australian wealth management units as part of a turnaround plan aimed at making the firm more customer-focused.

The Big Four banks were mixed, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank slightly down.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp advanced 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively.

On the other hand, gold stocks were dragged lower by an 11.2% drop in Resolute Mining after a roaster at its gold mine in Mali was taken offline.

A 1.5% fall in shares of Newcrest Mining also weighed. Gold prices, however, touched one-week highs as investors globally flocked to the safety of bullion.

Iron ore futures fell on Thursday, leading to a 1.2% fall in Fortescue Metals Group.

Elsewhere, packaging maker Orora Ltd’s shares jumped, closing nearly 14% higher, after announcing the sale of its local fibre materials business to Nippon Paper Industries for A$1.72 billion ($1.15 billion).

The sale would be the third-largest Australian acquisition by a Japanese company this year, according to Refinitiv data.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5% lower, down for a second session, losing 54 points to finish at 10,886.73.

SKY Network Television slid 20.7% to a record low after losing New Zealand cricket broadcasting rights to Spark New Zealand.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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