* ASX 200 adds 0.7 percent to trade at 6-year highs
* Miners lead; BHP beat its own guidance for iron ore output
* Recovery in China and robust earnings in U.S. underpin
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 23 Australian shares
added 0.7 percent on Wednesday, rising to fresh six-year highs
after Wall Street gained on solid earnings and investors
digested a mixed inflation report, but tensions in Gaza and
Ukraine kept gains in check.
Blue chip stocks underpinned the market, with the 'Big Four'
banks gaining ground and global miners rising as zinc hit a
three-year high and aluminium touched a 16-month peak overnight.
Among top-tier miners, BHP Billiton Ltd, the
world's third-largest supplier of iron ore, jumped 1.8 percent,
and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.9 percent. BHP beat its own
guidance for full-year iron ore output, mining a record 225
million tonnes in fiscal 2014, 4 percent ahead of its forecast.
"I think the BHP production result has really underscored
the positive sentiment in the market," said Ben Le Brun, a
market analyst at OptionsXpress.
"The gains that we have been seeing have been on very low
volumes, so there's not a lot of confidence or conviction behind
these six-year highs. The Australian share market does need to
play catch-up to other share markets."
The country's No.3 lender, Australia and New Zealand Banking
Group, and top bank by market capitalisation
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, both gained 0.7
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 36.1 points to 5,579.4
by 0146 GMT, its highest level since June 2008.
The benchmark index has been underpinned by signs that
China, Australia's largest export market, is regaining momentum,
while a robust earnings season in the United States has also
lifted investor sentiment.
Elsewhere, investors shrugged off a mixed inflation report,
with Australian consumer prices rising by a modest 0.5 percent
Among defensives, Australia's top telecommunications
provider Telstra Corporation Ltd added 0.5 percent to
continue its solid run. Shares in Telstra are 3.4 percent higher
for the year.
Starpharma Ltd rocketed 14.4 percent to 4-month
highs of A$0.84 after the biotech firm received key regulatory
approval, making its virus-killing condom one step closer to
Computershare Ltd climbed 1.4 percent after saying
it will acquire Homeloan Management Ltd for an upfront
consideration of GBP 47.5 million.
The New Zealand share market nudged higher in featureless
trading, with the benchmark NZX-50 index 4 points higher
at 5,138.3 to a two-week high.
Top stock Fletcher Building Ltd was up 1.2 percent
at NZ$9.05, close to a two-week high.
Telecom Ltd was nearly 1 percent higher at NZ$2.87,
the highest since mid-August 2012, a move above that level would
take the stock back to a near six-year high.
The strength of the leaders underpinned the market and
offset weakness in mid- and small-cap stocks.
The market's newest stock software concern ikeGPS Ltd
had a weak debut after a NZ$21 million IPO, trading as
low as NZ$0.90 from an issue price of NZ$1.10.
Fruit grower and exporter Scales Corp Ltd IPO-SCA.NZ will
list on Friday, after it sold 93 million existing and new shares
at NZ$1.60 each.
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)