August 9, 2019 / 3:30 AM / 14 days ago

Australia shares edge up, led by banks and small miners; NZ rises too

Aug 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose slightly on Friday, with smaller mining stocks and blue-chip banks leading gains, though many investors shied away from big moves.

At 0232 GMT, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3%, or 19 points, to 6,587.1.

Early Friday, Asian share markets firmed off a Wall Street rally that was helped by China’s better-than-expected June export figures, though fresh concerns about Sino-U.S. trade ties could limit gains.

A Bloomberg report said Washington is delaying a decision about licenses for U.S. firms to restart trade with Huawei Technologies, the latest development in the long-running trade tariff saga.

“Not too many people want to take big bets going into the weekend .... with not a lot of market data next week, it’s at the mercy of a tweet storm,” said Mathan Somasundaram, Sydney-based market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities, referring to messages on Twitter from President Donald Trump on China.

The mining index saw meagre gains, mostly contributed by lithium and nickel miners.

Lithium miners Orocobre and Pilbara Minerals were the top gainers on the benchmark index, at one point up 10.3% and 6.5%, respectively.

The world’s biggest lithium producer Albemarle Corp said it would delay construction plans for about 125,000 tons of lithium processing capacity due to a supply glut.

Australian nickel miner Independence Group NL surged as much as 5.3% to its highest level in well over four years.

Nickel prices leaped to a 16-month high as fears rippled through the market that major supplier Indonesia could bring forward a ban on exports of nickel ore.

Australia’s “Big Four” banks, other than National Australia Bank, gained between 0.4% and 1.1%. NAB was 0.3% lower.

The gold index cooled off after having gained 7.6% this week. Gold prices edged down on Thursday as equities markets recovered.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining lost as much as 2.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost 0.4% and 0.7%, respectively.

Casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd fell as much as 2.3% to a near six-month low.

A Melco Resorts & Entertainment spokesperson in an emailed statement to Reuters said the company would cooperate with an Australian gaming regulator’s inquiry on its $1.2 billion stake purchase in Crown Resorts..

New Zealand benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.3% higher at 10,903.63.

Investore Property was top gainer on the benchmark, rising 5.3% to a record high. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru)

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