REFILE-Australia shares gain on NAB, jobs data, investors cautious over Ukraine

Wed May 7, 2014 10:46pm EDT

(Refiles to drop redundant word and fix typographical error in first paragraph, and corrects grammar in 11th paragraph )

* NAB claws higher after rise in cash earnings

* Resources underpin on nickel supply worry

* Uptick in employment data buoys sentiment

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, May 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.6 percent on Thursday as local jobs data supported sentiment and National Australia Bank reported a rise in cash earnings, though gains were capped by caution over geopolitical tension in Ukraine.

National Australia Bank added 0.3 percent after highlighting increased pressure on margins as it posted an 8.5 percent rise in cash earnings.

Among the other 'Big Four' banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gained 0.7 percent and 0.4 percent each.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 33.5 points to 5,469.3 by 0205 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.8 percent to a three-week closing low on Wednesday.

The market was also buoyed by news Australian employment rose by 14,200 in April, beating expectations for a third month running while keeping the jobless rate steady at 5.8 percent.

The benchmark index hit a near six-year high of 5,554.5 on April 29, but has since drifted lower as investors have booked profits and kept to the sidelines over worries about Ukraine.

"Investors cashing in some of their gains in the banks (have) resulted in the benchmark index staggering lower over the past week," said Niall King, sales trader at CMC Markets in a note to clients.

"Equity valuations have raced ahead and more compelling fundamental evidence may be required to take indices beyond their recent highs."

The resource sector underpinned the broader market as nickel prices climbed towards 15-month highs on worries about tightening supplies from Indonesia following an export ban on unprocessed ores.

Index heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively, while Iluka Resources Ltd jumped 1.9 percent.

The gold sector bucked the broader trend and fell in early trade as bullion lost more than 1 percent. Top gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd lost 1.4 percent while rival Beadell Resources Ltd tumbled 6.5 percent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession just five days before it was to be held, potentially pulling Ukraine back from the brink of violent dismemberment.

Qantas Airways Ltd climbed 2.1 percent after saying it plans to cut debt by over A$1 billion by fiscal 2015 to achieve positive free cash flow.

Super Retail Group Ltd dropped 1.6 percent to 3-1/2 month lows of A$9.64 after releasing a trading update for May 2014, saying its leisure division is expected to maintain second-half gross margins slightly below the prior comparative period.

Boart Longyear Ltd skidded 13.8 percent to all-time lows of A$0.25 after saying its first quarter revenue was A$197 million compared with A$370 million in the previous corresponding period.

Arrium Ltd jumped 2.2 percent after reporting its shipments for the March quarter was up 54 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 percent to 5,178.7.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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