Australia shares near 6-year high after Wall St rally, jobs data

Wed Apr 9, 2014 10:34pm EDT

* S&P/ASX 200 trading at highest since June 2008

* Retailers extend gains on David Jones acquisition news (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, April 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to a near six-year high on Thursday as a rally on Wall Street and an upbeat local jobs report buoyed investor optimism.

Australian employment rose by a solid 18,100 in March to handily beat expectations for a second month, while the jobless rate took a surprise dive to 5.8 percent.

The Big Four banks underpinned the market for a second session. Westpac Banking Corp added 0.8 percent, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.7 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.4 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index were up 0.4 percent or 22.2 points to 5,486.0 at 0206 GMT after touching an intraday high of 5,500.0, its highest point since June 2008. The benchmark jumped 1 percent on Wednesday, having recovered from a low of 5,288.5 touched on March 20, as China took modest steps to stimulate its economy and investors piled into cheaper stocks.

"Comments within the Fed minutes on easing interest rate concerns has increased investor confidence and allowed yesterday's growth in the market to continue," Chay Flack, equities dealer at CMC Markets Stockbroking, said in a note to clients.

U.S. stocks rallied on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting suggested that officials were not as eager to tighten policy as some investors believed.

Retailers continued their run higher, spurred by news South African retailer Woolworths Holdings Ltd is set to buy struggling Australian department store operator David Jones for $2 billion.

"Yesterday's takeover offer for David Jones sent a clear message that there is fundamental value in the Australian market and it's likely there are numerous opportunities for international companies to invest within Australia," Flack said.

David Jones Ltd added 0.4 percent, Woolworths Ltd climbed 1.2 percent and Wesfarmers Ltd rose 0.8 percent. Electronics and entertainment retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd jumped 2 percent.

Elsewhere, Ten Network Holdings pushed 2.7 percent higher after the broadcaster reported a smaller half-year loss, saying it would target "non-traditional" advertisers as it tries to turn itself around in an uncertain market.

Transurban Group gained 1.3 percent to A$7.37, its highest point since 2007, after reporting its toll revenue had increased by 12.9 percent to A$221.7 million for the March quarter.

Austal Ltd leaped 4.8 percent after the company received a contract to design and construct two high-speed ferries from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, valued at about A$30 million.

Neon Energy surged 24 percent after agreeing to the sale of its Californian assets for $27 million.

Red Fork Energy Ltd rocketed 28.1 percent after entering into a farm-out agreement with Blue Quail Ltd, enabling Red Fork to participate in testing of conventional oil and gas targets, according to the company.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 1 percent to 5,117.1. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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