(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, March 5 Australian shares rose 0.6
percent on Wednesday morning, spurred by upbeat fourth quarter
GDP figures and on signs a military confrontation between Russia
and Ukraine might be averted.
Overnight, the S&P 500 jumped 1.5 percent to a record high,
after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia reserved the
right to use all options to protect compatriots who were living
in "terror" in Ukraine, but that force was not needed for
The Australian market got a further boost from data showing
the economy grew a solid 0.8 percent last quarter as a surge in
resource exports and a pick up in consumer spending helped
offset a sharp pullback in business investment.
"The Australian economy is still motoring along and the
economy is weathering the mining investment downturn, reasonably
well," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP
"There's a slump occurring in investment but that's being
offset by consumer spending, housing activity and trade."
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 33.8 points to 5,434.0
by 0127 GMT, its biggest one-day gain in nearly three weeks. The
benchmark is hovering some 30 points below the 5-1/2 year peak
of 5,461.7 points hit on February 25.
All 'Big Four' banks rose, with Westpac Banking Corp
climbing 1.1 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia
tacking on 0.7 percent. Mid-tier Bank of Queensland Ltd
added 0.5 percent.
In the consumer space, retail department stores Myer
Holdings Ltd and David Jones Ltd climbed 1.5
percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.
Analysts said easing tensions in Ukraine steered investors
back into equities after several days on the sidelines as
Russian actions raised fears of a military conflict.
"What we saw on the weekend could be the first move in a
very long game of chess, so I don't think we'll be as concerned
about this being an imminent threat to markets," noted Scott
Schuberg, CEO of Rivkin Securities in Sydney.
Gold was the only sector that faltered, as investors pulled
out of the safe-haven commodity after bullion prices dipped
about 1 percent overnight. Australia's top gold producer
Newcrest Mining Ltd fell 0.6 percent, while Resolute
Mining Ltd lost 0.8 percent.
Celsius Coal Ltd soared 11 percent after the
company confirmed it had reached non-binding agreements to sell
coal from its mine in Kyrgyzstan to Baoshan Iron & Steel
and China Minmetals.
Icar Asia Ltd rallied 13.5 percent to all-time
highs of A$1.30 after Carsales.com Ltd acquired an additional 3
percent of the company.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index continued its
rally to add 0.8 percent, touching all-time highs of 5,072.7.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)