February 8, 2019 / 1:24 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares edge lower, weighed by mining stocks, NZ flat

* Benchmark down after 4 sessions of gains, but poised for near 4 pct weekly gain

* Miners snap 3-day rally as investors take profit

* Energy stocks snap 4-day rally after oil price slump

* Concerns on Sino-U.S. trade talks progress also weigh

By Rashmi Ashok

Feb 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged down on Friday, as financial sector gains failed to offset profit taking among resource stocks, which snapped a three-day rally, led lower by heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto.

Also weighing on sentiment were worries that the March 1 deadline to agree on a deal to end their trade war may not be met, after U.S. President Donald Trump said that he did not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the deadline.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.2 percent, or 11.20 points, to 6,081.30 by 0026 GMT. The benchmark rose 1.1 percent on Thursday.

The mining sector was the biggest drag, falling more than 1 percent. BHP Group shed as much as 1.5 percent, Rio Tinto lost over 2 percent and Fortescue Metals Group dropped nearly 3 percent.

“As far as our resource stocks are concerned, we’ve had a substantial run on the strong iron ore prices and the big three are also seeing a bit of profit taking now,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

Financial stocks edged slightly lower in early trade but later jumped about 0.5 percent, with the country’s top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 1.1 percent while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group climbed about 0.8 percent.

Lenders had surged on Thursday after Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe said interest rates could move in either direction, a shift from the central bank’s earlier stance that the next move was more likely to be a hike.

National Australia Bank, however, underperformed its peers after its chief executive and chairman quit following a scathing report by the Royal Commission, which singled them out for their unwillingness to accept responsibility for wrongdoings.

Energy companies snapped four straight sessions of gains after oil prices tumbled, as the market grappled with concerns about a slump in global demand.

Sector giant Woodside Petroleum fell 1.8 percent while Santos and Beach Energy shed 3.5 percent and 6.2 percent respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.02 percent or 1.55 points to 9,131.96.

Pushpay Holdings was the top percentage loser on the benchmark, down nearly 5 percent, while dairy firm a2 Milk Company fell 1.1 percent.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Additonal reporting by Niyati N Shetty; Editing by Sam Holmes

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