Australia shares slip, cyclone hurts major miners
(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move) SYDNEY, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares were down 0.4 percent by Friday afternoon, with major miners losing ground as a cyclone affected their operations, overshadowing gains in other sectors after global markets had rallied on better-than-expected Chinese trade data. BHP Billiton Ltd lost 1.9 percent after suspending offshore oilfields and rival iron ore miner Rio Tinto Ltd also dropped 1.9 percent after shutting down key iron ore export terminals as a cyclone intensified off Australia's northwest coast. The S&P/ASX 200 index was 16.8 points lower at 4,706.2 at 0142 GMT. It rose 0.3 percent on Thursday to 4,723.0. Banks were mostly higher, with National Australia Bank leading gains, up 0.4 percent. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the trend, slipping 0.1 percent. The European Central Bank said on Thursday the euro zone economy will recover later in 2013 and there were already some signs of stabilisation after it held interest rates at a record low. "Local news this week has been nothing short of dismal," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets. "Building approvals came in under expectations, retail sales actually contracted in the month of November and Australia's term of trade deficit rose further due to the high Aussie dollar...As it's the end of the week, investors will be cautious today," Lucas said. Defensives were also firmer, with Australia's top telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd rising 0.5 percent to A$4.50, its highest level since August 2008. Gas provider AGL Energy was up 0.5 percent. Shares in gold were strong, with Newcrest Mining up 0.4 percent. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent to 4,126.9. STOCKS ON THE MOVE * Base Resources rocketed 38 percent to $A0.345 after it received formal notification that its Kwale mineral sands project in Kenya would be excluded from the African nation's 35 percent local equity participation requirement. (0141 GMT) * Online job-seeking website Seek Ltd jumped 2.9 percent to $A7.49 after it said it would increase its ownership in Chinese job-seeking website Zhaopin, potentially to 79 percent. (0142 GMT) (Reporting By Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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