April 12, 2013 / 1:55 AM / 4 years ago

Australian shares trade flat, gains in banks offset by miners

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, April 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares were flat in midday trade on Friday, as a drop in mining stocks offset strength among financials and defensive stocks.

Biggest lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank supported the market, with each adding 0.4 percent. Westpac Banking Corp bucked the trend, slipping 0.1 percent.

Global miners were weaker, Rio Tinto Ltd lost 2.5 percent after it suspended its mine operations in Kennecott, Utah, after its copper Bingham canyon mine experienced a slide. Rival BHP Billiton Ltd slid 0.6 percent.

U.S. stocks rose for a fourth straight day on Thursday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 to new closing highs as positive data on the labour market and an encouraging retail outlook eased recent concerns about economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.3 points to 5,008.4 by 0135 GMT. The index rose 0.8 percent on Thursday.

Ric Spooner, market strategist at CMC Markets, said there seems to be a pattern of weak performances on the Australian market despite a strong lead on Wall Street recently.

"One reason I think generally is that the valuations on our market are higher, we had quite a strong run in our market, and our market is probably more generously valued than the U.S. market"

"We're not moving past our previous highs while the U.S. certainly has."

The Australian market has risen around 8 percent this year, helped by strong corporate earnings and receding global growth worries.

Defensive stocks were mostly firmer. Consumer staples Woolworths Ltd and rival Wesfarmers climbed 0.8 percent and 0.4 percent respectively. Telecommunications giant Telstra Ltd inched up 0.1 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.4 percent or 16.5 points to 4,426.1.

STOCKS ON THE MOVE

* Woodside Petroleum Ltd soared 3.6 percent to A$36.55 after it shelved plans for the $40 billion Browse liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia, saying the massive onshore development did not make economic sense.

(0119 GMT)

* Santos Ltd jumped 1.2 percent to A$12.74 after the company announced its chairman Peter Coates will retire at its annual general meeting on May 9.

(0120 GMT)

Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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