* Rio Tinto hits near six-month high on strong Q2 shipments
* Australian mining sub-index set for best week since late
* NZ June manufacturing moves to expansionary territory -
July 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares eased on Friday as a
rise in the country's jobless rate and surging coronavirus cases
in Victoria weighed on sentiment, while Rio Tinto
scaled a near six-month high after reporting strong quarterly
iron ore shipments.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1% to 6,003.6 by
0111 GMT, but was set to post a weekly gain of 1.5%.
Australia's jobless rate hit a 22-year high of 7.4% even
though employment surged by a record last month, as the jump in
jobs growth was not enough to offset the increase in the number
of people who went looking for work.
Weighing on investor sentiment further, 327 new COVID-19
cases were reported on Thursday, a surge that was almost
entirely due to the state of Victoria.
Among sectors, the metals and mining sub-index
gained up to 1%, and was on track for its best week since the
week ended May 22.
Rio Tinto, the world's largest iron ore miner,
climbed 2.4% to its highest since January after its
second-quarter iron ore shipments beat consensus
The gold sub index slid 0.8% and was set to snap
three straight weekly gains. The top loser was De Grey Mining
Ltd, down 4.4%, while Alacer Gold Corp lost
The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 556 while
437 declined as a 1.3-to-1 ratio favoured advancers. The most
heavily traded shares by volume were Alumina, Fortescue
Metals Group and South32.
Across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX
50 index recovered from early losses to trade 0.7%
higher by 1258 GMT.
A survey showed manufacturing activity moved back to
expansionary territory in June after three months of
Dairy giant Fonterra raised the lower end of its
farmgate milk price guidance range as demand increased in China,
its top market.
($1 = 1.4325 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by