Australia shares hit 34-month high, China trade data supports

Fri Feb 8, 2013 1:01am EST

(Adds details, comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.7 percent
to a 34-month high, led by financial and mining stocks as
Chinese data showing a surge in trade backed evidence of an
economic rebound and boosted investor sentiment.
    Chinese exports grew 25 percent year-on-year in January
while imports surged 28.8 percent. January's trade surplus was
$29.2 billion versus a market expectation of $22 billion.
 
    Banks all rose, headed by a 2.2 percent jump by Australia
and New Zealand Banking Group to a 5-year high.
    Global iron ore miners Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP
Billiton Ltd finished the day firmer, rising 1.3
percent and 0.8 percent respectively. Lynas Corp surged
3.4.
    "The Chinese data had a major effect on the ASX," said Evan
Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets, noting the rise in the
big mining companies.
    "Investors are looking to cash in on iron ore exports to the
world's second largest economy," he said.
    The S&P/ASX 200 index finished the day 35.6 points
higher at 4,971.3, its highest close since April 16, 2010. The
benchmark index jumped 1 percent for the week.
    "Rising Chinese import and export numbers brightened the
mood across Asian markets," said Tim Waterer, senior trader at
CMC Markets.
    "An increase in the trade balance was consistent with recent
Chinese data suggesting that the world's second largest economy
is on an upswing."
    Blood products maker CSL Ltd helped the defensives,
surging 2.3 percent. Food retailer Woolworths Ltd 
finished flat but Wesfarmers Ltd rose 0.3 percent.
Australia's top telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd 
however, fell 0.4 percent.
    Oil producers were also stronger after Brent crude rose to a
near five-month high above $117 a barrel on Thursday. Woodside
Petroleum added 1.8 percent while Santos 
rallied 1.2 percent. 
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index finished the
day 0.7 percent, or 30.5 points, higher at 4,225.7.

 (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Pullin)