Australia shares close higher on earnings; miners, banks support

Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:09am EST

(Adds details, comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.6
percent on Monday after earnings reports from companies like
Amcor Ltd bolstered hopes that the local economy was in
better-than-expected shape.
    Investors also bought on dips after two blue chips went
ex-dividend, pushing daily trading volume to a near two-month
high.
    Commonwealth Bank of Australia and
telecommunications giant Telstra Corp Ltd went
ex-dividend on Monday, which prompted selling in both stocks and
rotation into other shares.
    CBA fell 1.9 percent and Telstra dropped 1.3 percent, while
other major banks advanced, led by a 3.6 percent rise in Westpac
Banking Corp.
    "Even we expected the pull-back today, people are still
buying on the dips," said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG
Markets. "You can also see there is a definitely very strong
rotation from those two ex-dividend into the other three banks."
    Investors were also cheered by domestic corporate earnings,
said Damien Boey, an equity strategist at Credit Suisse.
    "Generally what we are seeing is some surprising strength in
some of domestic cyclical companies," Boey said. "Despite all
the bearish expectations that there are for the Australian
economy, investors want to believe that things are at bottom."
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 29.5 points
to 5,063.4. 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.
    Big miners gained on hopes that top customer China will
start buying after the Lunar New Year holidays, with BHP
Billiton adding 0.2 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd 
climbing 1.1 percent.
    BlueScope Steel Ltd, Australia's largest
steelmaker, surged 15.4 percent after it reported improved
results for the half year 2013.
    Packaging group Amcor reported a better-than-expected 5.7
percent rise in first-half underlying profit on Monday, sending
its shares 2.6 percent higher.
    Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd rose 3.3 percent
after it reported a 4.4 percent rise in first-half cash earnings
and said it would see increasing demand for credit.
 
    Iron ore miner Arrium Ltd jumped 6.8 percent after
it appointed the head of its mining consumables business, Andrew
Roberts, as its new chief executive.
    Retailers rose, with supermarket chain Woolworth Ltd
 up 1.3 percent and Wesfarmer Ltd, the owner of
Coles supermarkets, closing 1 percent higher.
    But drilling company Boart Longyear shares dived
8.2 percent, after it reported a 58 percent fall in full-year
net profit to $68 million and appointed a new chief executive
and chairman.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4
percent to 4,214.5.

 (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Chris Gallagher)