December 11, 2019 / 6:02 AM / a month ago

Australian shares end firmer in subdued trade; NZ inches down

* Webjet shares top ASX after takeover talk

* Consumer stocks also up

* NZ cuts 2019/2020 growth forecast (Updates to close)

By Devika Syamnath

Dec 11 (Reuters) - Resources and banking stocks helped Australian equities end higher amid low-volume trade on Wednesday, while takeover buzz propelled travel site Webjet Ltd’s shares to the top of the benchmark.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.7%, or 45.7 points, higher at 6,752.6. The benchmark closed 0.3% lower on Tuesday.

In the absence of concrete signals from the U.S.-China trade front, trading levels in the Australian stock market have dipped over the past week ahead of a weekend deadline when new U.S. tariffs against Chinese goods are set to kick in.

Other big risk events on the horizon, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting and Britain’s election, are also keeping risk appetite in check, said Nick Twidale, general manager at IC Markets.

“(However,) I think some of the people that have been staying on the side feel that they may not get better levels to get in so they’ve come through today and we’ve seen a decent day,” he added.

Online travel agency Webjet jumped the most, adding 9.6%, after saying it would consider a takeover proposal, while confirming that none have been made yet.

On Tuesday, the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk suggested Webjet was being pitched by Goldman Sachs.

Mining stocks advanced 0.6%, with heavyweight iron ore producers BHP Group and Rio Tinto adding 0.4%, each.

Energy stocks also moved higher, with the nation’s biggest oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum gaining 0.8%.

Meanwhile, consumer heavyweights Woolworths Group and Coles Group Ltd, considered defensive stocks, gained 0.5% and 0.7%, respectively.

Australia’s “big four” banks gained between 0.3% and 1.4%, with Westpac Banking up 0.7% ahead of its annual meeting, where the bank is expected to face investor rage over a money laundering scandal.

The country’s bank watchdog said it had decided to keep the extra capital buffers banks are required to hold for emergencies at zero, but flagged the likelihood of a change at some point in the future.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched down 7.74 points to end at 11,291.96.

SKY Network Television Ltd declined the most, down 5.2%.

New Zealand cut its growth forecast for 2019/2020 and flagged a budget deficit, but announced a significant lift in capital spending to bolster the economy.

Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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