* Higher oil prices benefit energy stocks
* Gold stocks slump at over 4-month low
* Financials poised for straight second day of gains
By Shriya Ramakrishnan
Nov 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed in early Friday trade, as gains in the energy sector were outweighed by declines in resources stocks tracking weaker commodity prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.8 points to 6,725.1 by 0048 GMT. The benchmark gained 1% on Thursday, and was on track to record a weekly gain of 0.8%.
An overnight rally in oil prices on news that China and the United States have agreed to cancel tariffs in phases boosted investors’ appetite for energy stocks, with the sub-index rising 1.7%, making them the most dominant gainers on the benchmark.
Woodside Petroleum, the country’s largest oil and gas explorer, advanced as much as 2.2% to an over two-month high. The company on Friday raised its estimate for dry gas reserves at its Scarborough project.
Other major players in the sector Santos Ltd and Oil Search strengthened 1.4% and 0.8%, respectively.
While Wall Street’s major indexes notched record closing highs on Thursday, a report that an agreement between the United States and China to roll back existing tariff faces internal opposition at the White House raised fresh concerns.
“The lead from Wall Street is all about the fact that they look as though they are going to settle the trade war situation, but that has been on and off quite a lot,” Doug Symes, senior client adviser at Novus Capital said.
“People are pretty cynical...this has been going on for a long time.”
Gold stocks plunged 4.7% to their weakest level since June 20, as positive trade-related headlines overnight prompted investors to siphon money off the perceived safe-haven metal.
Newcrest Mining, the country’s largest gold producer and its smaller peer St Barbara dipped 4% each.
Weaker iron ore prices also weighed on the metals and mining sub-index, the benchmark’s second largest constituent which fell 0.7%. Global miner BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group traded marginally lower.
Meanwhile, gains in the “Big Four” banks largely supported a 0.3% rise in the financial sub-index.
National Australia Bank , the country’s third-largest lender, was poised for a second day of gains despite reporting a profit drop on Thursday, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which is due to report results next week, advanced 0.2%.
“The important point in case of NAB was that even though their profit was down, the report was not as bad as people were expecting,” Symes added.
The financial sub-index was poised for a weekly gain of 0.5%, following a 3.1% drop last week.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% or 59.06 points to 10,854.12.
Fletcher Building , the country largest construction firm, rose 4.1%, while payments platform operator Pushpay Holdings added 5%.
Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill