Australian shares set for cautious start as Wall Street slips

SYDNEY Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:46pm EST

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SYDNEY Feb 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares are set to have a cautious start on Thursday following a slight dip on Wall Street, and investors will likely stay on the sidelines ahead of earnings from index heavyweight miner Rio Tinto Ltd.

* Local share price index futures rose 0.2 percent to 5,272, but was still a 38.1-point discount to the close of the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index on Wednesday. The benchmark rose 1.1 percent in the previous session

* New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index eked out a gain of 0.1 percent in early trade.

* The Dow and S&P 500 ticked lower on Wednesday, weighed down by Procter & Gamble's outlook revision, though some positive earnings limited the declines and assuaged concerns that the market had become stretched after a four-day rally.

* Copper bounced on Wednesday after two days of losses, boosted by Chinese trade data showing record January imports, well-received comments from the new U.S. central bank chief and a U.S. debt limit deal.

* Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's tough stance against bailing out struggling industries has caused a rare public split inside his conservative government, which may suffer as a result of the divisive policy.

* Australia's largest telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd has reported first half profit attributable to equity holders at A$1.7 billion, up 9.2 percent.

* Transurban Group, Australia's biggest toll road operator, said its first half net profit fell slightly, missing analyst projections of an earnings increase as costs rose.

* ASX Ltd reported first half revenue from ordinary activities at A$405.2 million, an increase of 4.5 percent.

* The GPT Group said its full year total revenues and other income was down 4.6 percent to A$948.2 million. The property group says it expects economic growth to remain below trend in 2014.

* Rio Tinto Ltd is due to report earnings later in the day.

----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT @ 2221 GMT ------------

INSTRUMENT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1819.26 -0.03% -0.490 USD/JPY 102.52 0% 0.000 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.7626 -- 0.046 SPOT GOLD 1290.84 0.02% 0.200 US CRUDE 100.31 0.37% 0.370 DOW JONES 15963.94 -0.19% -30.83 ASIA ADRS 142.58 0.07% 0.09 -------------------------------------------------------------

* S&P 500's 4-day rally ends on P&G's outlook * U.S. oil ends at 4-mnth high, spread narrows on Cushing draw * Gold flat; technical momentum, Fed hopes seen supporting * Copper gains on surge in Chinese imports, Yellen comments

For a digest of the day's business stories in Australian newspapers, double click on

(Australia/New Zealand bureaux; +61 2 9373 1800/+64 4 471 4234)

(Reporting by Thuy Ong and Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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