Australia shares inch higher on gains by energy firms, NZ falls

* Financial stocks snap five straight sessions of losses * Energy shares have biggest weekly gain in five weeks * New Zealand’s A2 Milk has dropped 6.5 pct over 2 days (Updates to close) Feb 15 () – Australian shares edged higher on Friday, as gains in energy and financial stocks slightly outweighed losses for mining heavyweights while weak U.S. retail sales and softer Chinese inflation added to worries about the global economy. The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.1 percent or 6.7 points to 6066.1 at the close. The benchmark inched down 0.1 percent on Thursday, and for the full week declined by the same marginal percentage. China’s factory-gate inflation slowed for a seventh straight month in January, while U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December. Investors remained cautious ahead of a meeting between Washington’s top two negotiators in trade talks and Chinese President Xi Jinping later on Friday. Energy stocks gained 0.8 percent on the back of rising oil prices. Heavyweights Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd rose 1.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. Financial stocks closed slightly higher, ending a five-day streak of losses for the subindex, which shed 2.1 percent for the week. Three of the Big Four banks advanced, led by the 1 percent gain for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. National Australia Bank Ltd slipped marginally. Shares of mining giants BHP Group Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd shed 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively. Pharmaceutical company CSL Ltd, which has the fifth largest market capitalisation on the exchange, fell 1.2 percent. Shares of Whitehaven Coal Ltd tumbled 6.7 percent, even though Australia’s largest independent coal producer reported a higher interim profit. Investors were apprehensive about rising costs and a cut in guidance on 2019 saleable coal. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.4 percent or 39.27 points to finish at 9,245.65. The index gained about 0.8 percent for the week. A2 Milk Company Ltd plunged 3.8 percent, increasing its two-day loss to 6.5 percent on concerns about China. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd shed 1.4 percent. (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)Our Standards:The Thomson Trust Principles.