Australia shares open firmer on U.S. data, China GDP eyed

Thu Jan 17, 2013 6:23pm EST

(Updates to open)

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares opened 0.5 percent higher on Friday, taking a lead from Wall Street after U.S. housing and jobs data lifted the S&P 500 to a five-year high, as investors await China GDP figures.

Rio Tinto Ltd jumped 1.5 percent after its chief executive Tom Albanese was sacked following billions of dollars of write-offs on aluminium and coal assets, while top miner BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.4 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 22.0 points to 4,778.6 by 2315 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.4 percent to a 20-month high of 4,756.6 on Thursday.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent to 4205.7 in early trade. (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang)