Australia shares edge up; BlueScope, other earnings support

Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:15pm EST

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
    SYDNEY, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged 0.5
percent higher in late morning trade on Monday, after a string
of earnings reports from the likes of BlueScope Steel Ltd
 lent support to the view that the local economy was in
better-than-expected shape.
    Big miners also gained on hopes that top customer China will
start buying after the Lunar New Year holidays.
    "Generally what we are seeing is some surprising strength in
some of domestic cyclical companies," said Credit Suisse equity
strategist Damien Boey. 
    "Despite all the bearish expectations that there are for the
Australian economy, investors want to believe that things are at
bottom," he added.
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 25.0 points
to 5,058.9 by 0046 GMT. The benchmark edged down 3 points to
5,033.9 on Friday, but rose 1.3 percent for the week, continuing
the market's bull run for a fifth consecutive week. 
    BlueScope, Australia's largest steel maker, surged 13.3
percent after it reported improved results for the half year
2013.
    "The net cash flow looks good and the outlook comments are
mostly positive," said Martin Lakos, division director at
Macquarie Private Wealth.
    Australian packaging group Amcor Ltd reported a
better-than-expected 5.7 percent rise in first-half underlying
profit on Monday, sending its shares 3 percent higher to a
record high.
    Commonwealth Bank of Australia and
telecommunication giant Telstra Corp Ltd went
ex-dividend on Monday, which prompted selling in both stocks.
CBA eased 1.3 percent, while Telstra dropped 2.2 percent.
    Other major banks advanced, led by a 2.5 percent rise in
National Westpac Banking Corp.
    Among miners, BHP Billiton added 0.2 percent, and
rival Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.2 percent.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4
percent to 4,212.2.
    
    OTHER STOCKS ON THE MOVE
    * Boart Longyear shares dived 7.2 percent to A$2.0,
after it reported a 58 percent fall in full-year net profit to
$68 million and appointed a new chief executive and chairman. 
    (0039 GMT)
 

 (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)