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SYDNEY Jan 18 Australian shares gained 0.3
percent on Friday to hit a fresh 20-month closing high, buoyed
by mining stocks and a strong lead from Wall Street, although
investors shrugged off data showing improved growth in China.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 14.6 points higher at
4,771.2, according to the latest data, to be up 1.3 percent for
the week, the biggest weekly gain in seven weeks.
The market was little moved by Chinese GDP data, which
pointed to a 7.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter from a
year earlier, snapping seventh straight quarters of slowing
"I think it (the market) probably wants to see a much
stronger figure to be convinced," said Winston Sammut,
investment director at Maxim Asset Management, of investors
confidence in the world's second biggest economy.
Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 2.7 percent
after chief executive Tom Albanese stepped down following
billions of dollars of write-offs on aluminium and coal assets,
to be replaced by iron ore division chief Sam
"He is probably a bit more disciplined and stringent
player," said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG Markets. "He
is quite a good fit."
The mining sector posted broad gains, with top miner BHP
Billiton Ltd adding 0.4 percent and Fortescue Metals
Group Ltd jumping 3.2 percent, although analysts said
prices may pause after recent gains.
"Notwithstanding commodities prices have picked up and the
iron ore prices have done well, perhaps it has reached the peak
for the time being," Sammut said.
OZ Minerals Ltd, Australia's no. 3 copper producer,
jumped 5.2 percent after copper rose more than 1 percent on
Thursday on encouraging U.S. housing and jobs data.
Financials were mixed, with National Australia Bank
adding 1.2 percent and Westpac Banking Corp, dipping 0.1
Energy stocks rose moderately, with Australia's top two oil
and gas producers Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd
up 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index backed off from
a five-year high and fell 0.8 percent to 4,164.2, after the
country's Q4 consumer price index dipped 0.2 percent, lower than
(Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Pullin)