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* 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 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
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
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
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)