June 24, 2019 / 7:17 AM / 25 days ago

Australian shares end steady ahead of trade talks; NZ at record high

* ASX 200 reverses course to end up 0.2%

* Aussie financial index finishes slightly higher

* NZ benchmark clocks fresh record (Updates to close)

June 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended steady on Monday as investors kept a cautious stance ahead of the G20 summit, which will be watched by markets for signs of de-escalation in the Sino-U.S. trade conflict.

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said President Xi Jinping would attend the Group of 20 meeting in Japan this week, giving the first official confirmation of his attendance at the gathering where he is expected to discuss trade with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

The G20 summit will be held in the city of Osaka on June 27-29.

The outcome from negotiations between Xi and Trump would set the tone for the trading week, CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said.

However, doubts prevail over whether any meaningful agreement would surface from the meeting as the dispute between the world’s biggest economies has transcended tariffs.

Trade tensions heightened last week after the United States decided to blacklist several Chinese companies involved in supercomputing with military applications.

The S&P/ASX 200 ended up 0.2% at 6,665.40 points.

The financial index rebounded from earlier losses to end a tick higher, tracking index heavyweight Westpac Banking Corp, which finished marginally up.

Westpac shares fell as much as 0.8% after Australia’s second-biggest lender’s Chairman Lindsay Maxsted said, citing an internal report, that the bank’s culture can slow decision-making and dilute accountability.

The bank’s self-assessment also found that the approach to cultural issues was “less mature than our approach to managing financial risks”, Maxsted said in a letter to shareholders.

The mining sub-index ended slightly firmer, while Chinese iron ore futures retreated from last week’s record highs.

Investor sentiment, however, was buoyed by expectations that tight iron ore supply at Chinese ports as a result of a decline in supply from Brazil amid increased domestic demand would continue supporting prices.

BHP Group and Rio Tinto closed up 0.4% and 0.2%, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished up 0.6%, or 61.02 points, at a record level of 10,388.31.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Auckland International Airport were the day’s top advancers, up about 2.6% each. (Reporting by Rushil Dutta and Renju Jose in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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