Australia shares tentative as next week's election, Syria eyed
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Aug 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged 0.1 percent higher in tentative trade on Friday morning, as many investors kept to the sidelines ahead of a looming general election and on uncertainty over possible U.S.-led military action against Syria.
Financial heavyweights tacked on modest gains as they recouped some of their previous session losses. Top lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.4 percent while Westpac Banking Corporation added 0.1 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 6 points to 5,098.4 by 0131 GMT, in line with a slightly more positive tone in regional markets. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was trading 0.2 percent higher.
The benchmark, which is on track to post a 0.5 percent loss for the week, has been confined to the 5,100 points level for most of August as a mixed earnings season and concerns about the U.S. Federal Reserve trimming its stimulus restrained buyers.
Analysts said investors were also cautious ahead of a general election on Sept. 7.
"With Australian shares trapped in a tight sideways range at the moment as investors look toward the looming election, gains will be limited in the near-term," said Tim Radford, global analyst at Rivkin Securities in a note.
In the past few days, global markets have been shaken by the risk of upheaval in the Middle East as the West threatened military action against the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own civilians.
Elsewhere, a handful of defensives were trading higher. Top telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd added 0.4 percent and QBE Insurance Ltd Group rose 0.1 percent.
On the downside, shares of Virgin Australia Holdings slid 2 percent after reporting a disappointing A$98.1 million full-year net loss, blaming difficult economic conditions, strong competition and one-off costs.
"Having a loss never goes down that well, because when you contrast it with Qantas actually recording a profit, I think you'd have to say it's pretty disappointing," said Michael Heffernan, a senior client adviser and economist at broker Lonsec.
Qantas Airways Ltd, which soared on Thursday after a solid earnings report, took a breather and dropped 1.4 percent.
Miners lost ground after copper slid for a third day, reaching its lowest price in almost three weeks. Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Billiton Ltd shed 1.1 percent and 0.1 percent respectively
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent 4,530.3.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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