October 29, 2019 / 12:50 AM / 3 months ago

Australia, NZ shares tiptoe higher on trade optimism

* Trade deal hopes lift shares, but investors on edge - Analyst

* Mining stocks best performers, BHP & Rio gain

* Bega Cheese biggest loser, flags weak earnings on drought woes

By Rashmi Ashok

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched higher on Tuesday on expectations that the United States and China would strike a trade agreement soon, however, caution prevailed as weary investors await concrete details on the deal.

The S&P 500 hit a record high and the Nasdaq fell just short of a lifetime high on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected to sign a significant part of a trade deal with China ahead of schedule, but did not specify an exact date.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2% or 13 points at 6,753.70, as of 0023 GMT. The index was set for a seven-day winning streak, having closed marginally higher on Monday.

“In recent days, the market has been starting off well and then fading in the second half of the session - it’s a sign that there’s not a huge amount of enthusiasm,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at Commsec.

Markets remained cautious and vulnerable to a drop, particularly as the index moves closer to record highs pinned on expectations of a trade deal, he said.

“Even if there is good news saying the trade talks are going better than expected, it doesn’t mean much until it is put in writing.”

Mining stocks largely supported the index, with global miner BHP Group adding 1.3% and rival Rio Tinto Ltd rising 1.4%. The smaller Fortescue Metals Group rose 1.1%.

Among technology stocks, Bravura Solutions Ltd was the best performer, adding as much as 9.2% after saying it would buy of domestic software maker FinoComp in an earnings-accretive deal.

Healthcare stocks also rose, with sector heavyweight CSL Ltd inching to a record high, while Cochlear Ltd put on 1.3%.

However, financials posted a subdued performance, with all of the “Big Four” banks inching lower.

Energy stocks also dropped, with Origin Energy Ltd down 1.1%, while sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd shed 0.6%.

Bega Cheese Ltd was the biggest loser on the benchmark, slipping 17% to a six-year low. The dairy goods maker flagged weaker earnings in fiscal 2020, citing increased competition brought about by reduced supply amid a prolonged drought.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4% or 37.41 points to 10,826.05.

Dairy giant a2 Milk Company Ltd added 1.6%, while electricity generator Genesis Energy Ltd gained 2.3%.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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