Australia shares post first weekly gain in four, property sector shines

(Updates to close)

Aug 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares posted their first weekly gain in four weeks on Friday, as significant gains in real estate firms pushed the benchmark higher although fears of an impending global recession and the festering Sino-U.S. trade spat kept investors cautious.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3% higher at 6,523.10 and the benchmark gained over 1.8% for the week.

Most property stocks gained with the sector index tacking on 2.3%.

Goodman Group finished more than 4% higher to stand among the top percentage gainers on the benchmark after the firm reported a more than a 48% jump in annual profit.

Underpinning positive sentiment in the real estate sector, Dexus, Charter Hall Group and Mirvac Group gained as much as between 1% and 3%.

“The softening of interest rates in Australia has been the focus in the results commentary of most of the property groups,” said James McGlew, executive director of stock broking at Argonaut.

McGlew added that the residential market is now receiving a lot of attention from the government, which wants to stimulate new growth in the sector.

Heavyweight financials gained about 0.2% in a volatile session for the sector, with three of the “Big Four” banks ending the session higher.

Overall gains, however, were capped by declines in the mining sector, with gold stocks off for a sixth straight session.

Gold explorer Gold Road Resources ended more than 17% lower after slumping as much as 23%, its most in more than nine years, after its shares were sold by a unit at a discounted price.

Gold Road was also the top percentage loser in the Metals and Mining index, which closed down 0.2%.

Major gold firms Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining both dropped about a percent each.

Miner South32 Ltd fell to its lowest level since March 2017, closing about 7% lower. The company on Thursday reported a 25% drop in annual underlying profit.

The energy sector, which has largely propelled the benchmark’s weekly gains, finished the day with marginal gains.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell about 1% to 10,622.35, with polymer products maker Skellerup Holdings Ltd and electricity retailer Meridian Energy Ltd leading the losses, both finishing more than 4% lower.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore