Australia shares up as China trade data wows

Wed Jan 9, 2013 10:13pm EST

(Adds China trade data reaction)

MELBOURNE Jan 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.3 percent on Thursday, turning postive on much stronger-than-expected Chinese trade data, suggesting economic strength in Australia's top customer.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars also popped higher on after the strong Chinese trade data, a good portent for the countries' exports and commodity prices.

"A positive result will see risk switch on and set the tone for the remainder of the day," said Evan Lucas, strategist at IG Markets.

China's exports in December grew 14.1 percent from a year earlier to hit a seven-month peak, data showed on Thursday, trouncing market expectations for 4 percent. Imports grew 6 percent.

"Into 2013, we look for export growth to average 12 percent. This is not without obstacles, however, and growth is likely to be volatile and gradual, even with stabilization on the U.S. front and a recovering Asia," said Connie Tse, economist at Forecast PTE.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 13 points at 4,721 by 0259 GMT. It rose 0.4 percent on Wednesday to snap a three-day losing streak.

BHP Billiton Ltd reversed early losses to be up 0.1 percent, Rio Tinto Ltd rose 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals rose 2.7 percent.

An annual report from JP Morgan's specialist sales desk obtained by Reuters said copper and gold miner PanAust Ltd was Australia's top contender to be taken over in 2013 in another year likely to be dominated by acquisitions of resource companies..

Top banks were all higher, led by a gain of 0.7 percent in ANZ Banking Group.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged up 0.3 percent to 4,115.

New Zealand posted a bigger-than-expected NZ$700 million ($583 million) trade deficit for November, its fourth straight monthly trade deficit..

STOCKS ON THE MOVE

* Australian construction firm Macmahon Holdings Ltd climbed 1.8 percent to A$0.28, having jumped as much as 5.5 percent after it received a revised offer from Sembawang Australia.

Sembawang, a subsidiary of India's Punj Lloyd Ltd, stepped up its offer for Macmahon's construction business on Thursday, looking to trump a current deal with Leighton Holdings Ltd.

(0154 GMT)

* Aspire Mining Ltd surged 69.5 percent to A$0.1, after Noble Group agreed to provide additional support for its coking coal project.

(0141 GMT)

* Australia's biggest gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd fell 2.1 percent to A$21.56, declining for a fifth session in a row to hit a near six-month low.

(0143 GMT) (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Eric Meijer)