July 24, 2019 / 2:38 AM / 4 months ago

Australian shares gain on Sino-U.S. trade hopes; NZ down

* Aussie benchmark hits more than 11-1/2-year high

* Westpac brings forward next RBA rate cut forecast to Oct

* Regis Resources down as much as 10%, worst performer on index

By Niyati Shetty

July 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday, tracking gains on Wall Street as investors cheered some headway in stalled trade negotiations between the United States and China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.7%, or 50.0 points, to 6,774.60 by 0147 GMT, hitting its highest since November 2007. The benchmark rose 0.5% on Tuesday.

U.S. stocks approached record highs on Tuesday after Bloomberg reported that the country’s senior officials were headed to Shanghai on Monday for face-to-face trade talks with their Chinese counterparts.

Adding to the optimism of a possible deal, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow called it a “good sign”.

“Markets have been eagerly awaiting this next step in the U.S.-China trade war and optimism will grow that this meeting could signal a key turning point in securing a final deal,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Financials gained up to 1%, with Westpac Banking Corp adding 1.7% and National Australia Bank hitting a more than 10-month high.

Investors have also been scooping up stocks in recent days on expectations of monetary policy easing by the world’s major central banks, the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, this month.

Meanwhile, Westpac on Wednesday brought forward the timing of its forecast for the next Reserve Bank of Australia rate cut to October from November, citing unemployment and inflation pressures.

The central bank has trimmed the cash rate twice to 1% since June.

Oil prices marched upward as Middle East tensions escalated further after the United States said it shot down a second Iranian drone, giving a boost to energy stocks.

Woodside Petroleum advanced 0.8% and Oil Search was up 0.6%.

The metals and mining index gained as heavyweights BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group each climbed 0.9%.

Gold stocks, however, declined 1% as bullion prices fell to their lowest in a week on Tuesday.

Regis Resources slumped as much as 10% and was the worst performer on the Australian benchmark after brokers downgraded ratings and cut price targets for the mining company.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.36%, or 39.40 points, to 10,827.85.

Retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare slipped 2.9% and dairy products maker a2 Milk dropped 2.6%. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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