Australia shares seen muted in early trade, Westpac solid
SYDNEY May 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares are seen muted in early trade after U.S. markets eased and as investors remain cautious over tensions in Ukraine, although a robust result from index-heavyweight Westpac and an uptick in gold may buoy the market.
* Australia's Westpac Banking Corp said its first-half cash profit rose 8 percent to a record high, beating expectations, thanks to solid growth in lending and a fall in bad debts.
* Local share price index futures rose 0.1 percent, but were at a 4.1-point discount to the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index close. The benchmark added 0.2 percent on Friday, but lost 1.3 percent for the week, snapping 6 consecurive weeks of gains, the longest streak since August 2013.
* New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.3 percent in early trade.
* U.S. stocks eased on Friday as concerns about more violence in Ukraine prompted profit-taking ahead of the weekend and offset optimism about the fastest job growth in more than two years.
* Pro-Russian militants stormed a Ukrainian police station in Odessa on Sunday and freed nearly 70 fellow activists as the country's leaders lamented a police force they said was widely undermined by graft or collaboration with separatists.
* Copper ended higher but was set to log its biggest weekly loss in seven after the United States' decision this week to further trim its stimulus program, which has provided commodity markets with liquidity.
* Gold rose more than 1 percent, its biggest daily gain in two months as rising geopolitical tensions and heavy short-covering helped bullion reverse an initial sharp sell-off after mixed U.S. job data.
* China's Baoshan Iron and Steel Co Ltd and Australia's Aurizon Holdings Ltd launched a A$1.14 billion takeover bid for Australian iron ore developer Aquila Resources Ltd, Aurizon said on Monday.
* Monthly consumer inflation data from TDSecurities and Melbourne Institute, ANZ job advertisements, and monthly building approvals data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are all due later in the day.
----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT @ 2302 GMT ------------
INSTRUMENT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1881.14 -0.13% -2.540 USD/JPY 102.23 0.05% 0.050 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.5861 -- 0.000 SPOT GOLD 1300.14 0.02% 0.320 US CRUDE 99.75 -0.01% -0.010 DOW JONES 16512.89 -0.28% -45.98 ASIA ADRS 142.35 0.45% 0.64 -------------------------------------------------------------
* Wall St dips as Ukraine concern offsets upbeat jobs data * Oil rises on Ukraine fighting, strong U.S. job growth * Gold up 1.4 pct on Ukraine, U.S. jobs data has mixed impact * Copper closes higher, falls on week as U.S. tapers stimulus
For a digest of the day's business stories in Australian newspapers, double click on (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Pullin)