Australia shares rise to highest close since Sept 2008, CBA leads

Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:06am EST

(Adds details, comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed 0.9
percent on Wednesday, closing above the 5,000-mark for the first
time since the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, underpinned by
strong corporate earnings.
    Analysts said the market will continue its bull-run if
corporate earnings remain solid. 
    The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the
highlight of the session, soaring 2.4 percent to an all-time
high of A$67.11 after posting record first half earnings of
A$3.7 billion.
    "The buzz stemming from the CBA numbers seemed to
proliferate into the broader market with investors buoyed by the
profit achievements of one of our banking pillars," said Tim
Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.
    The S&P/ASX 200 index finished the day 44.7 points
higher at 5,003.7, after closing flat on Tuesday in thin trade.
    The market has not broken above the 5,000 barrier in almost
three years, and the last time it closed above this level was on
Sept. 22, 2008, shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
    The benchmark index has risen some 7.0 percent so far this
year, helped by receding fears about the euro zone debt crisis
and an eleventh hour resolution to a potentially destabilising
fiscal mess in the U.S. The strong domestic earnings have
amplified the gains.
    "We will likely need to see a few follow-up acts from the
other blue chips for the ASX200 to have an extended stay above
the 5000 level," Waterer said.
    Global iron ore miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio
Tinto Ltd advanced 0.9 percent and 2.1 percent
respectively.
    "The key for today will be whether we can hold on to current
levels," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets.
    "With Rio Tinto reporting full-year profits tomorrow, the
cyclical side of the market will test this threshold (5000
level), and with analysts expecting record productions in iron
ore, copper and coal, the result is already under pressure and
will add pressure to current gains."
    Insurers finished the day firmer, led by QBE Insurance
 surging 4 percent while Suncorp added 0.2
percent.
    Energy stocks were also stronger. Santos edged up
0.1 percent while Woodside Petroleum rallied 0.7
percent.
    Defensives were mixed. Australia's top telecommunications
provider Telstra Ltd was up 0.2 percent. Blood products
maker CSL Ltd finished flat after posting a half-year
profit of A$627 million, up 24 percent. 
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index finished the
session 0.1 percent, or 3.3 points, higher at 4,221.4.
    Technology company Rakon Ltd plunged 31.6 percent
after downgrading its guidance forecast. Internet
access services company Mykris Ltd tumbled 13.3
percent.


 (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)