Australia shares edge up to near 6-year high ahead of Anzac Day

Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:51pm EDT

* S&P/ASX200 trading up 0.2 pct at near 6-year high

* Resources sector buoys market on rise in nickel prices

* Gains capped by some stocks trading ex-dividend

* Markets closed Friday for Anzac Day (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, April 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched higher on Thursday to a near six-year high, underpinned by the resources sector, though gains were capped as many investors kept to the sidelines ahead of a holiday on Friday and after Wall Street eased overnight.

Index heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd edged ahead as nickel prices jumped to their highest in more than 14 months.

Atlas Iron Ltd jumped 3.7 percent after the company maintained its full-year production guidance in its quarterly report.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2 percent or 10.3 points at 5,528.1 by 0116 GMT, at its highest point since June 2008. The benchmark rose 0.7 percent on Wednesday after unexpectedly low inflation data lessened the pressure for a hike in interest rates this year.

The benchmark is on track to gain 1.4 percent for the week, its sixth straight week of gains and its longest streak since August 2013. Markets will be closed on Friday for the Anzac Day holiday.

"Lured by the magnetic pull of bullish momentum in global equities, local investors have succumbed to temptation and joined the party," Niall King, sales trader at CMC Markets, said in a note to clients.

"Generally positive corporate earnings have been the primary catalyst," King added.

Banks were mixed after a strong run this week. Westpac Banking Corp was down 0.1 percent after touching an all-time high earlier in the session, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group added 0.1 percent, hovering near a record high.

Resmed Inc climbed 3.5 percent to a three-month high after the developer of products for diagnosis and treatment of sleep-disordered breathing reported a rise in third-quarter earnings.

But a number of stocks trading ex-dividend trumped moves higher. Bank of Queensland Ltd lost 2.8 percent, its biggest one-day percentage drop since Jan. 14, while consumer retail staple Woolworths Ltd shed 1.1 percent.

QRxPharma Ltd dived 14.3 percent, extending the previous session's 80 percent slump, after the company failed to get regulatory approval for its painkiller drug Moxduo in the United States. Its shares were at an all-time low of A$0.12.

Elsewhere, a consortium led by Transurban Group, whose shares were in a trading halt, has won a bid to buy toll firm Queensland Motorways Ltd for $6.6 billion in its first foray into the country's third-most populous state.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.2 percent or 8 points to 5,150.9. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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