Australia shares inch higher on Wall St, banks weak
(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY May 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched 0.1 percent higher on Wednesday, led by blue-chip miners after comments from two voting U.S. Federal Reserve presidents eased fears the Fed was contemplating an imminent cut in its stimulus programme, helping Wall Street close at all-time highs.
Bellwether miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.3 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.
Top steel producer and consumer China boosted steel output in April, more than offsetting production cuts in most other countries, where steelmakers are battling oversupply and price weakness.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 4.3 points to 5,184.4 by 0120. The index fell 0.6 percent on Tuesday.
"There's not much conviction [in the market] and volumes are still very very light," said Peter Esho, investment Adviser at Wilson HTM Investment Group.
Roughly 350 million shares changed hands in early morning trade.
Financials were weaker after notching up big gains on the back of strong earnings reports and high yields. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 0.2 percent while Australia New Zealand Banking Group fell 0.4 percent. Westpac Banking Corp posted the biggest loss of the sector, down 0.5 percent.
"There are a lot of questions now over the ability of the banks to continue running, or hold current levels," Esho noted.
"This is the offsetting factor [for the market]."
Mining services firms took a beating as the sector suffered modest earnings, depressing share prices. Boart Longyear and Ausdrill dropped 6.4 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.
U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 closing at new all-time highs as Federal Reserve officials' comments eased concerns that the central bank could soon reduce its stimulus program.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index climbed 0.7 percent or 32.3 points to 4,623.2.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Myer Holdings Ltd lost 1.4 percent to A$2.73 after Australia's largest department store chain posted a small rise in third-quarter sales and said it remained cautious about the outlook for retail trading.
* Seven West Media plumbed 8.1 percent to A$2.095. U.S. private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co is selling a remaining stake in Australia's Seven West Media Ltd valued at A$265 million ($260 million), exiting an investment made almost seven years ago at the height of a buyout boom.
Justin Reizes will remain a director until its AGM in November.
* Stockland Corp Ltd tumbled 2.8 percent to A$3.87 after the management company said its $400 million institutional placement is expected to have a neutral impact on earnings per security in FY 2013 and FY 2014.
* Pharmaxis surged 12.5 percent A$0.225 after the pharmaceutical company announced it has appointed PharmaSwiss as a distributor for its Bronchitol product in Poland and ten other Eastern European countries.
* Discovery Metals Ltd plummeted 12.5 percent to A0.175, a four-year low, continuing its tumble after the miner said on Tuesday it had begun a formal process of seeking bids for the company.
(0124 GMT) (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)