Australian shares hit fresh 5-year highs, financials buoy market

Thu May 9, 2013 8:23pm EDT

(Updates with movements in early trade)

SYDNEY May 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up 0.3 percent to hit fresh five-year highs on Friday morning, as strong gains in the banking sector offset weakness in mining stocks and a fall in Wall Street overnight.

Top lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.7 percent while Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.6 percent. The sector has been a top performer recently, bouyed by stellar profits and attractive dividend yields, and has been the main driver of the market's rally in the past few weeks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 15.5 points to 5,213.9, notching fresh 5 year highs by 0013 GMT. The index slipped 1.4 points on Thursday.

Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent respectively, weighed down by weaker copper prices.

Copper fell on Thursday as price charts suggested a pull back following a rally to three-week highs on expectations of rising demand from China.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was trading flat or down 0.2 points to 4,639.2. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)