Australia shares seen edging higher on easing Ukraine tension

SYDNEY, March 19 Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:49pm EDT

SYDNEY, March 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares are set to post modest gains on Wednesday following Wall Street after Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest comments eased tensions in Ukraine, while an uptick in copper may support miners.

* Local share price index futures rose 0.3 percent, an 17.4-point premium to the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index close. The benchmark climbed by 0.5 percent on Tuesday.

* New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index increased by 0.2 percent in early trade.

* U.S. stocks rose for a second straight day on Tuesday, with the S&P moving within 1 percent of record levels after comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin eased concerns that tensions over Ukraine might escalate.

* In an address to the Russian parliament, Putin said Moscow didn not want Ukraine to be divided further, and that he did not want to seize more of the country after approving plans to make Crimea part of Russia following a disputed referendum.

* Copper steadied overnight as fears eased over the possible winding up of financing deals using the metal as collateral in China but the country's slowing economy still worried investors and restrained gains.

* Gold dropped as investors chose riskier assets such as equities after Putin's comments.

* Department store operator David Jones Ltd will release its first-half results later in the day.

* Southern Cross Electrical Engineering Ltd said it has been awarded two projects by Rio Tinto with a combined value of over A$10 million. ----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT @ 2116 GMT ------------

INSTRUMENT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1872.25 0.72% 13.420 USD/JPY 101.41 -0.01% -0.010 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.6722 -- -0.025 SPOT GOLD 1354.89 -0.84% -11.450 US CRUDE 99.56 1.51% 1.480 DOW JONES 16336.19 0.55% 88.97 ASIA ADRS 140.42 0.20% 0.28 -------------------------------------------------------------

* Wall St up as geopolitical fears ease, Microsoft jumps * U.S. oil climbs more than $1/bbl on strong equities, Ukraine * Gold drops on equities gain as Ukraine worries lessen * Copper steadies as China credit upheaval fears recede

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

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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