Australia shares up 0.2 pct ahead of rate decision; miners pressured

Mon Apr 1, 2013 9:12pm EDT

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
    SYDNEY, April 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.2
percent in late morning trade on Tuesday, driven by banks and
defensive stocks as investors looked for bargains after recent
dips, but miners were pressured by worries about metals demand
from China.
    "It's a very defensive-looking day. People are still happy
to build up equities today, but it's selective," said Chris
Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets. "It's in the
defensive nature sectors as well."
    Major banks traded higher, led by the biggest lender
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which rose 0.5 percent.
National Australia Bank Ltd edged down 0.1 percent. 
    Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd edged 0.2 percent
lower, and rival Rio Tinto Ltd fell 0.6 percent, after
iron ore prices sank more than 2 percent on Monday.
    "We had the slightly weaker-than-expected China PMI numbers
yesterday, which hurt sentiment," Weston added.    
    The S&P/ASX 200 index added 10.6 points to trade at
4,977.1 by 0058 GMT. The benchmark dropped 0.6 percent in the
last trading day ahead of the Easter holidays.
    Energy stocks had a strong run, after Brent crude rose above
$111 a barrel. Australia's biggest oil producer, Woodside
Petroleum Ltd, pushed up 1.2 percent, and smaller peer
Origin Energy Ltd gained 1.7 percent.
    Consumer staples advanced, with supermarket chain Woolworth
Ltd gaining 1.2 percent and rival Coles-owner
Wesfarmers Ltd adding 0.9 percent. 
    Investors will focus on comments by the Reserve Bank of
Australia, which holds a policy review on Tuesday. The central
bank (RBA) is expected to keep interest rates unchanged at a
record low 3.0 percent, waiting for further evidence that past
cuts are working to stimulate the economy. 
    "There is a possibility they may show a more neutral bias,
because of some of the domestic indications we've seen," Weston
said, referring to stronger domestic data over the past month.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched down 0.1
percent to 4,420.1.
    
    STOCKS ON THE MOVE
    * Shares in rare earth producer Lynas Corp plunged
6.3 percent to A$0.53, after diving as much as 13 percent in the
morning to its lowest since June 2010. Analysts said the fall
may be related to China's latest warning of weak demand for rare
earths.
    (0054 GMT) 
    
    
    * Dexus Property Group jumped 2.1 percent to
A$1.06, after the company sold its remaining U.S. property for
$56 million. 
    (0052 GMT)
    
    * Australia's flagship airline Qantas Airways Ltd 
gained 1.7 percent to A$1.82, after it said Competition
Commission of Singapore has approved its partnership with
Emirates Airline.  
    (0051 GMT)
    
    

 (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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