Australia shares top 5-year highs, cautious ahead of US deadlines
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.3 percent on Friday, topping five-year highs hit last week after Wall Street broke a five-day losing streak, but investors remained cautious ahead of looming U.S. fiscal deadlines.
Financials continued to underpin the market, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both adding 0.3 percent.
Suncorp Group Ltd and QBE Insurance Group Ltd rose 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent respectively.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 14.1 points to 5,308.5 by 0141 GMT, topping the intraday five-year high of 5,300.1 hit on September 19. The benchmark is on track to end 0.6 percent higher this week, a seventh consecutive week of gains.
"I think the market is basically hanging its hat on quantitative easing and a continuation of that," said Akshay Chopra, investment analyst at Karara Capital, a boutique fund manager based in Melbourne.
"It all comes down to the global economic data. If that's improving then we should be too."
The energy sector also posted gains after oil prices firmed overnight, as traders sought bargains after sharp losses earlier this month. Santos Ltd rallied 2.2 percent to 2-1/2 year highs, while Oil Search Ltd climbed 1.4 percent to an all-time high of A$8.97.
However, trading remained cautious as investors focus on two looming Washington deadlines: Before Oct.1 Congress needs to pass stop-gap funding for federal agencies, and by Oct. 17 it must raise the federal borrowing limit to avoid a debt default by the United States.
"Traders probably prefer to wait on next week's news before deciding on whether significantly higher valuations are justified," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in a note to clients.
"Investors appear to be prepared to ride through the noise of political brinkmanship at this stage."
Elsewhere, gold producers fell after bullion slipped overnight as mixed U.S. economic indicators prompted investors to take profits after gains in the previous session.
Newcrest Mining Ltd dropped 3.2 percent while Perseus Mining Ltd lost 4.4 percent.
Mirabela Nickel Ltd slumped 54.1 percent to A$0.03, an all-time low, after the company said its sales agreement with Votorantim will terminate at the end of November 2013, with its smelting facilities to close.
Blackthorn Resources Ltd rocketed 18.5 percent to a two-week high of A$0.32 after drilling uncovered exceptional copper grades at its Kitumba mineral resource deposit in Zambia.
The local bourse took a lead from Wall Street where the S&P 500 and Dow snapped five-day losing streak overnight on positive job data.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.3 to 4,779.1 points.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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