(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Feb 14 Australian shares rose 0.8
percent to five-week highs on Friday morning, spurred by solid
earnings from index-heavyweight Rio Tinto and a fifth rise in
six sessions for Wall Street stocks.
Rio Tinto Ltd gave investors an unexpected gift,
delivering a 15 percent hike in dividend after reporting a huge
jump in second-half profit on Thursday, putting it in a strong
position for a big capital return in 2015.
Rio rose 0.9 percent and BHP Billiton Ltd climbed
1.2 percent, while PanAust Ltd jumped 3.3 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 41.3 points to
5,349.4 by 0052 GMT. The market is on course to post a 3.2
percent rise for the week, snapping five consecutive weeks of
losses and marking its biggest weekly rise since December 2011.
"I think that's certainly been a factor this week that the
earning results have surprised on the upside, particularly with
the Telstra dividend being increased and a substantial increase
in the Rio dividend too," said Tony Russell, senior equities
adviser at RBS Morgans.
"We've had strong results that's underpinning our market and
also a bit of optimism coming back in the United States."
The benchmark index stumbled in January, falling 3 percent
as investors sold out of equities as investors fretted over
slowing growth in China and the tapering of U.S. Federal
Reserve's massive stimulus.
U.S. stocks closed higher overnight, with the Nasdaq rising
for a sixth straight day, as investors looked past disappointing
data on consumer spending, chalking the weakness up to weather
instead of weaker fundamentals. The Dow and S&P 500 rose for the
fifth session in six.
Newcrest Mining Ltd slipped 0.4 percent after
reporting a 36 percent drop in first-half underlying profit on
Friday, though the overall mining sector was generally well
Among defensives, Australia's top telecommunications
provider Telstra Corporation Ltd rose percent. Blood
products maker CSL Ltd bounced 1.5 percent, a modest
recovery from steep losses recently after its first half result
was dented by the settlement of a U.S. antitrust class action.
Crown Ltd added 1.5 percent after Melco Crown
Entertainment , in which Crown holds a
one-third stake, posted a 52.8 percent rise in full year net
profit, boosted by a flood of wealth Chinese gamblers keen to
punt in its glitzy casinos.
Orica Ltd gained 2.8 percent after the commercial
explosives company entered into a long-term supply agreement
with CF Industries Inc.
Sims Metal Management Ltd jumped 5.5 percent after
the world's largest recycler returned to profitability in the
first half, citing improvements in its Australian and U.S.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was flat at
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)