Australia shares recover, banks and miners push ahead

Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:39am EST

(Adds detail, comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares recovered 0.7
percent on Wednesday with banks and miners leading as Wall
Street rebounded overnight after the Federal Reserve Chairman
Ben Bernanke defended the central bank's bond-buying programme.
    Financials underpinned the market, with the Commonwealth
Bank of Australia posting the largest gain, rallying
0.8 percent. Westpac Banking Corp bucked the trend,
slipping 0.1 percent.
    Blue chip miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto
 were up 0.9 percent and 0.7 percent respectively. 
    A powerful cyclone headed for Australia's Port Hedland,
which has brought shipping of half the world's seaborne-traded
iron ore to a halt, intensified and is set to make landfall late
on Wednesday, threatening to flood inland mine operations and
rail links. 
    The S&P/ASX 200 index finished the day 33 points
higher at 5,036.6. The benchmark lost 1 percent on Tuesday.
    "With events in the U.S. overnight providing peace of mind,
the Australian index was again able to make forward progress,"
said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.
     Mining contractor Macmahon Holdings slumped 2.9
percent after it said shareholders had approved the sale of its
construction business to Leighton Holdings Ltd. Leighton
Holdings Ltd added 0.4 percent. 
    Defensives helped lead the index higher. Blood products
maker CSL Ltd climbed 1 percent. Top telecoms provider
Telstra Ltd added 0.4 percent. Retailer Wesfarmers Ltd
 gained 1 percent while rival Woolworths Ltd AX>
edged up 0.2 percent. 
    AGL Energy Ltd soared 4.5 percent after Australia's
second-largest electricity and gas company posted a 20 percent
rise in first-half profit as it attracted more customers and
power prices rose. 
    Insurers recovered as QBE Insurance Australia 
jumped 3.4 percent and Insurance Australia Group Limited
 climbed 2.7 percent. Suncorp bucked the trend,
dropping 0.8 percent. 
    Shopping centre operator Westfield Group rose 0.5
percent, after it reported 2012 results in line with
expectations. 
    U.S. stocks rebounded from their worst decline since
November on Tuesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke
defended the Fed's bond-buying stimulus and sales of new homes
hit a 4 1/2-year high. 
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index closed the
session 0.9 percent or 37.4 points higher to 4,276.3.

 (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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