April 9, 2019 / 6:44 AM / 5 months ago

Australian shares flat amid caution ahead of U.S. earnings; NZ falls

* Energy stocks at over 2-week high as oil soars on supply cuts

* Financials weigh on index

* Expected decline in U.S. earnings hits sentiment (Updates to close)

April 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed on Tuesday, with losses among financials erasing gains from energy stocks, as investors remained cautious ahead of a looming U.S. earnings season, which is expected to show U.S. corporate sector weakness.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climber just 0.4 points, or 0.01 percent, to 6,221.8 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.7 percent on Monday.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq edged into positive territory on Monday, however, gains were held in check by falling industrials as investors braced for what analysts now expect to be the first quarter of contracting earnings since 2016.

“There is not a lot of conviction out of the U.S. market as well as the Aussie market,” said Christopher Conway, senior investment advisor at Marcus Today.

“That is because of lot of macro issues, which are at play including the U.S-China trade talks and the expectations of decline in earnings per share during the U.S. reporting season,” he added.

Financial slipped 0.3 percent, with the “Big Four” banks losing between 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia losing most among them.

Mining stocks ran out of steam and were little changed after a 1.7 percent surge in the previous session, shrugging off record high Chinese iron ore prices.

Top miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto staged a lacklustre performance, edging up 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent respectively.

However, lithium miners such as Pilbara Minerals, Galaxy Resources and Kidman Resources slipped, offsetting BHP and Rio Tinto’s marginal gains.

Energy stocks rose 2 percent to a more than 2-week high, as oil prices hit fresh 5-month peaks due to OPEC-led supply cuts and U.S. sanctions.

Oil Search jumped 2.3 percent after the company, along with France’s Total SA and Exxon Mobil, signed a deal with Papua New Guinea to start work on a LNG project.

Crown Resorts, Australia’s biggest casino firm, closed 19.7 percent higher and was the top performer on the index, after it said it was in talks with Las Vegas rival Wynn Resorts about a potential A$10 billion ($7.13 billion) buyout.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 percent or 19.78 points to finish the session at 9,787.30. The top loser was retirement village operator Summerset Group Holdings, which slipped 3.8 percent. ($1 = 1.4017 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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