Australia shares flat China trade deal caution caps gains; NZ up
* Aussie benchmark on track for best month since July 2016
* U.S. top trade negotiator cautions on trade deal
* Rio shares at more than decade high after 2018 results
By Shreya Mariam Job
Feb 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares were mostly flat on
Thursday as investor caution towards a resolution to the
U.S.-Chinese trade war kept a cap on sentiment, however, the
benchmark index looks set to post its best monthly gain in
The S&P/ASX 200 index was largely flat at 6,152.4
by 0150 GMT. The benchmark is on track to gain roughly 4.9
percent in February, which would be its biggest monthly
percentage gain since July 2016.
Denting a recent revival investor confidence, U.S. Trade
Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Wednesday it was too
early to predict an outcome in U.S.-China trade
"Trump's adviser Lighthizer has poured a little bit of cold
water through the comments about the Chinese trade tariff deal,"
said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut, saying
that the deal markets have been hoping for may take a little
On Thursday, the mining index fell 0.2 percent,
with iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, trading
ex-dividend, down over 4 percent and among the biggest losers.
Bucking the trend, Rio Tinto touched a more than
10-year high after posting its highest annual underlying
earnings since 2014 and announced a bumper dividend after market
hours on Wednesday.
Gold prices also fell on Wednesday, pressured by a mild
revival in the U.S. dollar after comments from the U.S. Trade
Newcrest Mining fell 0.8 percent, while smaller
peers St Barbara and Resolute Mining dropped
1.4 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Energy stocks were supported by rising oil prices. The
energy sub-index added 0.3 percent.
Elsewhere, Bingo Industries Ltd rose as much as
27.6 percent, its biggest intraday percentage gain, after
announcing a share buy back of up to A$75 million.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4
percent, or 32.91 points, to 9,316.09.
Gains from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Spark New
Zealand offset a more than 4 percent drop in dairy
giant Fonterra's, which cut its annual guidance.
(Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job and Nikhil Kurian Nainan in
Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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