(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, Jan 16 Australian shares edged 0.3
percent higher on Wednesday, led by banks after Wall St posted
modest gains on stronger-than-expected retail data, although a
dip in iron ore prices and concerns about Chinese demand weighed
on the market.
Banks were firmer as No.1 lender the Commonwealth Bank of
Australia rose 0.9 percent, while miners BHP Billtion
Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd fell 0.8 percent and 0.6
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 15.4 points higher at
4,732 by 0033 GMT. The index ended 0.1 percent lower at 4,716.6
on Tuesday, and is hovering around 18-month highs.
"We've just seen the banks do well a bit today, they're
getting demand for that yield play," said Stan Shamu, market
strategist at IG Markets, pointing to the sector's strong
"That generally happens when there's no confidence in
markets and no one is confident enough to get more risk
exposure. That's probably what's driving the market today."
Defensives were strong. Blood products maker CSL Ltd
jumped 1.6 percent and Australia's no.1
telecommunications provider Telstra gained 0.6 percent.
Food retailer Wesfarmers Ltd edged up 0.4 percent.
Gold miners were firmer, Newcrest Mining rallied
1.2 percent while Regis surged 3.3 percent.
A measure of Australian consumer confidence inched up 0.6
percent in January as people fretted about their finances even
as they grew more optimistic on the economy and looked to spend
more on major items.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2
percent, or 6.3 points to 4,177.3.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Boral soared 8.3 percent to A$4.72 after it
announced a national restructure, eliminating 700 positions from
the Australian business.
* Namoi Cotton Co-operative Ltd surged 14.6 percent
to $A0.275. Louis Dreyfus Commodities, the world's largest
cotton merchant, has set up a joint venture with Namoi Cotton
Co-Operative Ltd to sell fiber produced by one of Australia's
biggest co-operatives, Namoi said on Tuesday.
(Reporting By Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Pullin)