October 4, 2019 / 2:50 AM / 2 months ago

Australian shares edge higher; set for worst week in 11 months

* Investors await key U.S. jobs data for further cues

* CSL props up the benchmark

* Financials weigh as NAB continues slump

By Nikhil Nainan

Oct 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares ticked up on Friday in thin trade, as investors refrained from making big bets ahead of a key U.S. jobs report following a series of dismal data that put the index on track for its worst week in almost 11 months.

The country’s fourth biggest firm CSL Ltd pushed the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index 4 points, or 0.1%, higher to 6,496.9 by 0209 GMT.

On Thursday, the Australian benchmark lost A$42 billion ($28.37 billion) in value as two consecutive days of weak U.S. data and Washington’s latest trade salvo, this time against Europe, fanned worries about an economic slowdown there.

The index is set to fall 3.2% this week, its biggest drop since mid-November.

The nonfarm payrolls report due later in the day could cement expectations for further U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate cuts after poor manufacturing and private jobs figures earlier this week.

“Simply put, the more disappointing the report the more likely we are to see a rate cut this month and potentially another one towards the end of the year,” said Steven Daghlian, a market analyst with CommSec.

National Australia Bank dropped the most among the “Big Four”, extending losses in a week that has seen it forecast a A$1.12 billion cash earnings hit after nearly doubling the total amount it has set aside to repay wronged customers.

It also faced a rating downgrade from Morgan Stanley, coupled with warnings from analysts that all the major banks face intense margin pressure from the three interest rate cuts this year by the Reserve Bank of Australia and any further easing.

The country’s third-biggest lender was down 7% for the week.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.4% as Australian authorities charged its life insurance arm with 87 counts of unlawfully offering to sell products via unsolicited telephone calls.

Drugmaker CSL climbed as much as 3.4%, set for its best day since Aug. 14 after Morgan Stanley upgraded the company.

Energy and mining stocks, which suffered sharp losses on Thursday, rose as oil and commodities prices edged higher.

Fortescue Metals Group strengthened 1.1%, while Rio Tinto added 0.4%.

The country’s top independent oil and gas explorer and producer Woodside Petroleum advanced 0.7%

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.7%, or 77.63 points to 10,898.84.

Fonterra and NZX Ltd climbed 2.2% and 1.6%, respectively.

For more individual stocks activity click on ($1 = 1.4806 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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