Australia shares sustain gains even as retail sales drop

MELBOURNE Tue Jan 8, 2013 9:20pm EST

MELBOURNE Jan 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.4 percent on Wednesday, breaking a three-day losing streak as top banks and supermarkets offset declines in department stores and some miners.

The market stood its ground even as retail sales data showed a fall of 0.1 percent for November, missing forecasts for a rise..

"It was a bit average," said Tony Russell, senior equities adviser at RBS Morgans.

"This might be a bit of a fundamental change in how people are doing their shopping," he said, noting online sales were rising.

Myer Holdings fell 3 percent to A$2.155 as the government report showed department store sales fell 0.4 percent in November. A Myer spokesman told Reuters last week the company was maintaining its forecast for flat Christmas and January sales.

Meanwhile, a measure of online sales from National Australia Bank jumped 15 percent in November, taking annual growth in sales to a brisk 27 percent.

Still, gains in heavyweight stocks such as a rise of 1 percent in National Australia Bank and 1.3 percent in Woolworths helped keep the overall market in positive territory.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 15 points at 4,705.3 by 0144 GMT. It fell 0.6 percent to 4,690.25 on Tuesday.

U.S. stocks fell overnight as companies started to report results for the fourth quarter.

"Our market anticipated it a bit yesterday and was expecting the market to be a bit weaker offshore last night," said Russell.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent to 4,105 points.

STOCKS ON THE MOVE:

* Tiger Resources Ltd rose 4.6 percent to A$0.345 after it said a feasibility study at its Kipoi copper project in the Democratic Republic of Congo confirmed a low-cost, high-margin project which can be commissioned after 16 months of development.

"The results are very encouraging and demonstrate that Kipoi should generate significant cash flow," said Tiger Resources Managing Director Brad Marwood in a statement emailed to Reuters.

0146 GMT

* Alumina Ltd rallied 5.1 percent to A$1.03 after Alcoa Inc beat expectations on revenue.

Alumina holds 40 percent of Alcoa World Alumina & Chemicals (AWAC), the world's largest alumina business, with capacity to meet nearly 20 percent of world demand. U.S.-based Alcoa owns 60 percent.

0147 GMT (Reporting by Miranda Maxwell; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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