(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Jan 21 Australian shares added 0.1
percent in choppy trade on Tuesday, led by banking and defensive
stocks, with Wall Street closed overnight for Martin Luther King
Day and offering no leads to follow.
An uptick in some banking and defensive stocks helped buoy
the index. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia
added 0.5 percent while National Australia Bank rose
Among defensives, biotechnology firm CSL Ltd gained
0.6 percent while consumer staple retailer Woolworths Ltd
edged 0.3 percent higher.
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 2.8 points to 5,297.8 by
0051 GMT. Trading was thin, with 129.1 million shares changing
hands by 0049 GMT compared to an average of 678.7 million shares
traded daily in 2013. The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent on
The local bourse is down 1.1 percent so far in 2014 as
investors fret over slowing growth in China, Australia's largest
export market, and uncertainty over how quickly the U.S. Federal
Reserve will cutail its bond buying program.
"The index has just been trailing off, it's obviously
trading sideways with traders waiting for what the Fed's going
to do in the U.S. and how investors will react to that news,"
said Jonathan Fyfe, investment advisor and portfolio manager at
Wilson HTM Investment Group.
The resource sector was worst hit as copper dipped after
near-term demand prospects from top consumer China remained
muted despite slightly better-than-expected Chinese growth data.
Heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd
lost 0.3 percent and 1.2 percent each.
Steel producers were also hit after Shanghai steel futures
fell for a third straight session to trade near record lows.
World no.4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd
plumbed 3.5 percent, while Arrium Ltd dropped 3.3
Tiger Resources Ltd fell 1.2 percent after jumping
earlier in the session to touch near two-year highs. Tiger said
stage 2 production at its Kipoi Copper project in the Democratic
Republic of Congo is expected to produce 532,000 tonnes of
copper cathode over 11 years, an increase of 41 percent.
Elsewhere, Sandfire Resources NL lost 3 percent
after maintaining its full year 2014 production guidance.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd stumbled 1.1 percent. The
company is stuck in the middle of a dispute between East Timor
and Australia over seized documents relating to the two
countries' negotiations over oil and gas reserves thought to be
worth tens of billions of dollars.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index advanced 0.2
percent to 4,898.0 points.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)