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The ASX limped towards the end of a bruising week with minor gains for the session as global markets await the next twist in the US-China trade saga.

The ASX 200 edged up 17 points or 0.2 per cent towards a possible second day of gains. A week that began with the index just below record levels looked set to end with a weekly loss of more than 140 points or 2 per cent, its worst performance in nine weeks.

Global markets cratered on Tuesday as hopes for a trade deal dwindled. Sentiment improved yesterday after sources within the US camp assured reporters negotiations remained on track to produced a deal before a scheduled US tariff increase on December 15. Overnight, the S&P 500 edged up five points or 0.15 per cent.

The local market took a breather today, with the twin pillars – financials and miners – trading sideways. A 0.4 per cent gain in Commonwealth Bank was cancelled out by minor declines in ANZ, NAB and Westpac. BHP and Rio Tinto both drifted 0.2 per cent, but there were gains for the likes of Western Areas, Beach Energy and Northern Star.

Utilities and health stocks were high among the pick of the sectors, suggesting a mild defensive bent. AGL Energy gained 0.9 per cent, CSL 0.2 per cent and Spark Infrastructure 0.5 per cent.

A 1.9 per cent decline in Altium capped gains in the tech sector. Shareholders took profits after the software maker updated revenue forecasts at its AGM. The tech high-flyer trades at a lofty valuation of around 60 times earnings per share.

Organic milk producer Bubs slid 7 per cent after raising $30 million at a discount to fund product development and acquisition opportunities. Internet marketplace platform engage:BDR rose 13.6 per cent on news of record revenues last month.

The dire state of the construction industry was highlighted by the second worst reading in a measure of building activity in six years. The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Construction Index sagged 3.9 points to 40 last month, well below the 50-point level that separates expansion from contraction. The index has been stuck below 50 since September last year.

Asian markets extended yesterday’s rebound. China’s Shanghai Composite put on 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.5 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.3 per cent. S&P 500 index futures were recently ahead four points or 0.1 per cent.

Brent crude futures faded 11 cents or almost 0.2 per cent this morning to $US63.28 a barrel. Gold dipped $2.10 or 0.1 per cent to $US1,481 an ounce.

The dollar was buying 68.36 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: Tap Oil hit a four-year high after the company declared a maiden dividend. The oil producer and explorer will return $10.64 million to shareholders in the former of a fully-franked 2.5 cent-per-share dividend on the last day of the year. The company has more than $US30 million cash in hand and a 30 per cent share in a producing oil field in the Gulf of Thailand.

Not today: shares in Boral slumped to an eight-week low after the construction company uncovered problems at its north American windows business. The company is investigating financial irregularities relating to inventory levels and costs. Based on what it knows so far, Boral expects a one-off $20-30 million hit to earnings before interest and tax. Shares were lately down 6.4 per cent at $4.60.

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