* Banks lead shares higher as investors chase high-yields
* Construction stocks lift after uptick in Q1
* Gold producers cap broader gains after 2 pct fall
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, May 28 Australian shares
edged higher on Wednesday, supported by another record-close for
the S&P 500 and interest in banking stocks, though overall gains
were capped by a slide in gold producers after bullion prices
A rise in the 'Big Four' banks underpinned the sector as
investors chased their high yields. Westpac Banking Corp
added 0.4 percent, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia
rose 0.2 percent to all-time highs of A$81.85. Among
mid-tier banks, Bank of Queensland Ltd edged 0.1
The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 16.6 points, or 0.3
percent, to 5,528.3 by 0206 GMT. The market finished a choppy
session flat on Tuesday.
The benchmark hit a near 6-year high of 5,554.5 points on
April 29, but has largely drifted sideways this month with
traders blaming a lack of catalysts for the tepid performance.
"The Australian economy continues to grow at a sub-trend
pace, and at the moment the market has slightly stretched
valuations," said Matthew Sherwood, Head of Investment Market
Research at Perpetual.
"In 2012 and 2013 we had big run ups in share prices without
a lot of corporate earnings growth, so 2014 is going to be that
year where we get the earnings growth but we don't get much
price growth," Sherwood said.
Earlier, data released from the Australian Bureau of
Statistics showed construction work done nationwide in the first
quarter rose 0.3 percent.
In the construction space, Leighton Holdings Ltd
jumped 1.8 percent, and James Hardie Industries PLC
climbed 1.5 percent to 2-1/2 month highs of A$14.63.
Gold miners dropped after bullion fell 2 percent overnight,
hitting Australia's top gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd
, which lost 3.7 percent, while Northern Star Resources
Ltd slumped 5 percent.
Australian property group Stockland Corp Ltd upped
its offer for Australand Property Group to A$2.02
billion, a month after threatening to walk away if the target
rejected its original bid. Shares in Australia's
no.2 property group, Stockland, added 0.8 percent, and
Australand slipped percent.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand shares edged higher with
the benchmark NZX-50 index up 0.7 percent to 5184.08, a
The strongest performer was transport company Mainfreight
Ltd which rose 10.3 percent to a record high NZ$14.25
after reporting a 36 percent rise in full year profit on higher
sales and one-off gains. It last traded at NZ$14.22.
Dairy giant Fonterra Co-operative Ltd shareholder fund
was fractionally higher at NZ$6.03. It cut its initial
forecast payout for the coming season by 17 percent on falling
prices and higher supply, which was not as bad as some had
(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)