Australian shares struggle for direction as weak earnings weigh

Australian shares struggle for direction as weak earnings weigh

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares were set for a fifth consecutive weekly gain, even as the market struggled for direction on Friday as mining, energy and gold stocks offset losses in a slew of blue chips including AGL Energy over weak earnings.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO flitted in and out of positive territory and was last up 0.04% at 7,115.5, as traders assessed comments from a string of U.S. central bank officials that the Federal Reserve needed to keep raising borrowing costs to bring high inflation under control.

The benchmark index has risen 1.1% so far in the week. Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei .N225 was up 0.33% on Friday and S&P 500 E-minis futures EScv1 were down 0.16%.

Among top losers in Australia, AGL Energy AGL.AX slipped 3.1% to hit its lowest in more than four months after the country's top power producer said its annual profit more than halved, falling short of analysts' estimates.

TPG Telecom TPG.AX dropped 10.4% after its half-year profit came in below consensus due to higher costs, while poultry producer Inghams Group ING.AX fell 9.4% on reporting a lower profit.

However, the energy sub-index .AXEJ jumped 3.6% to hit a two-week high, supported by higher crude oil prices. Santos STO.AX and Woodside Petroleum WDS.AX led gains in the sector, rising 3.8% each.

Gold stocks .AXGD gained more than 2%, helped by a 2.8% rise in heavyweight Newcrest Mining NCM.AX despite the company posting a profit drop and announcing a lower dividend.

Moves in Australian miners .AXMM this week were seen largely independent of iron ore prices. The sector firmed 1.7% on Friday despite tumbling iron ore prices, and was on track for a weekly gain of 4.1%.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 fell more than 1%, pulled down by a near 10% slide in Fisher and Paykel Healthcare FPH.NZ on weak outlook.

Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu