Australia shares boosted as NAB hits multi-year highs

Thu Feb 7, 2013 12:36am EST

MELBOURNE, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.3
percent on Thursday, bolstered by  index heavyweights National
Australia Bank and Telstra Corp, which reported higher earnings.
    Economic data also supported sentiment. Australian
employment rose by 10,400 in January while the jobless rate held
steady at 5.4 percent, beating market expectations.
    "February is often a soft month for shares. However, the
trend in share markets is likely to remain up this year," said
Shane Oliver, strategist at AMP Capital.
    "The positive momentum seen in recent months in share
markets is indicative of a bull market, during which corrections
are usually short-lived and mild. Share market valuations are
still attractive," he said.
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 14.75 points
to 4,935.7, according to the latest data. It rose 0.8 percent on
Wednesday.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.4
percent to 4,195.24 after data showed New Zealand's employment
fell by 23,000 jobs, or 1.0 percent, in the three months to Dec.
31..
    Top lender National Australia Bank rose 1.9 percent
to A$28.63, its best close since April 2010, after it reported a
4 percent rise in first-quarter cash earnings, boosted by rising
revenues and a fall in bad debts. 
    "It looks cheaper than stocks such as Commonwealth Bank
 which looks pricey in comparison," said Angus Gluskie,
portfolio manager at White Funds Management, which has a stake
in NAB. 
    Top phone company Telstra Corp rose 1.3 percent to
A$4.64 after it posted an 8.8 percent rise in first-half net
profit, bolstered by growth in its mobiles business.
 
    "It's met most expectations and exceeded some," said
Gluskie.
    Whitehaven Coal Ltd fell 5.3 percent to A$3.02
after the timeframe for government consideration of its Maules
Creek project was extended by three months.
    News Corp sank 3.2 percent to A$26.60 after
reporting December quarter results. 
    Australand Property Group fell 2.3 percent to
A$3.42 after it said it expects first-half earnings will be less
than a year earlier.
    Tabcorp Holdings Ltd rose 2.6 percent to A$3.16
after it reported net profit of A$72.9 million for the half
year.
    Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd fell 3.3 percent to
A$0.44 after the competition regulator outlined factors that may
affect its final decision on the proposed purchase of 60 percent
of Tiger Australia.

 (Reporting by Miranda Maxwell; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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