SYDNEY Dec 10 Australian shares edged up
marginally on Monday, but a disappointing rise in home loans
brought the benchmark index off early highs made on positive
U.S. jobs data and industrial output and retail sales figures
Australian home loan commitment for October released by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a rise of 0.1 percent,
well short of a forecasted rise of 3 percent according to a
"The market has been fading throughout the day, what we're
seeing is some of these larger resource stocks are doing okay,"
said Damien Boey, equity strategist at Credit Suisse.
"There's just generally a lot of nervousness. We had the
housing finance data which wasn't that great."
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index came off a high of
4,571.7 points, but held in positive territory at 4,557.9, up
0.1 percent, or 6.1 points from Friday when the market closed at
a seven-week high.
Bellwether miners BHP Billiton Ltd rose 0.6 percent
while Rio Tinto Ltd rallied 1.9 percent.
Steelmaker Fortescue Metals Group jumped 6.9
percent. The company is in talks with BC Iron, the
smallest among a tight circle of iron ore miners in Australia's
Pilbara region to acquire majority control over its Nullagine
joint venture. Rival Bluescope Steel
gained 0.3 percent.
Banks were mostly strong, with Westpac Banking Corp
heading gains, rising 0.6 percent. Australia New Zealand Banking
Corp bucked the trend, slipping 0.2 percent.
Defensives were somewhat weak, blood products maker CSL Ltd
dropped 2.3 percent while food retailer Woolworths
lost 0.8 percent.
China's factory output and retail sales growth have risen to
eight-month highs, according to data released on Sunday.
But trade figures released on Monday, showing
exports grew 2.9 percent year on year in November and imports
were flat, disappointed analysts.
U.S. companies kept up their slow but steady hiring pace in
November, where the unemployment rate fell to a near four-year
low of 7.7 percent, defying predictions that Superstorm Sandy
would deal a big blow to the labour market.
Radio station owner Souther Cross Austereo lost 5.9
percent amid a backlash and cancelled advertising after the
death of a nurse following a prank call to the hospital treating
Prince William's pregnant wife.
Shares in Australia's loss-making Ten Network Holdings
sank 9 percent on Monday as they resumed trading after
Ten's second cash call in under six months.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.3
percent or 10.8 points to 4,030.8.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)