Australia shares touch 20-month high, CPI awaited

Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:34pm EST

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MELBOURNE, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.3
percent on Wednesday, touching a 20-month high for a second day
in a row as BHP Billiton gained after lifting
production, although trade was constrained ahead of inflation
data.
    Underlying inflation is seen at 0.7 percent in the fourth
quarter and around 2.5 percent for the year. 
    "Ahead of CPI everyone's just watching and waiting," said
John Milroy, client advisor at Macquarie Private Wealth.
    "We are all sweating on the U.S. reporting season, as well
and our own reporting season next month, probably trying to see
some justification for some pretty heavy price moves we've seen
already," he said.
    The Standard & Poor's 500 hit a fresh five-year closing high
overnight.     
    Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 15
points at 4,794.4 by 0013 GMT. A session high of 4,802.2 was the
strongest since May 2011.
    "It's had a pretty good trot. The asset location shift --
out of what are likely to be lower returns in fixed interest and
those types of things into equities -- makes sense to us. But
whether the upcoming earnings results in February can justify
the price moves, well, time will tell," said Milroy.
    New Zealand's NZX 50 index rose 0.1 percent to
4,192.2.
    
    STOCKS ON THE MOVE:
    * Top miner BHP rose 1.2 percent to A$37 after it reported a
3 percent rise in iron ore production in the December quarter.
.
    0017 GMT
    
    * St Barbara Ltd rose 7 percent to A$1.555 after it
announced December quarter consolidated gold production of
92,691 ounces.
    0017 GMT

    * Mirabela Nickel Ltd fell 6.6 percent after UBS
cut its target price on its Toronto listing to C$0.75, from
C$0.90.
    0019 GMT
    

 (Reporting by Miranda Maxwell; Editing by Edmund Klamann and
Stephen Coates)
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