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Australia shares steady, valuations eyed as earnings season tails off
February 26, 2014 / 1:10 AM / 4 years ago

Australia shares steady, valuations eyed as earnings season tails off

SYDNEY, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares were steady on
Wednesday morning, pausing after reaching 5-1/2 year highs in
the previous session as investors were cautious of plowing funds
into stocks that have become pricey.   
    A largely upbeat earnings season has given the market fresh
impetus in recent weeks, with many of the blue-chip banking and
mining companies putting up strong performances.
    It has seen the market rebounding from a loss of 3 percent
in January to add nearly percent so far this month.
    "After the steep rally from early February, valuations have
arrived at levels that are becoming attractive to short term
profit takers and where buyers are finding it harder to see
value," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
    Early support came from Commonwealth Bank of Australia
, the top bank by market capitalisation, which rose 0.4
percent, and a 0.9 percent rise in shares of National Australia
Bank.
    The S&P/ASX 200 index added 3.8 points to 5,437.6 by
0105 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Tuesday, pulling
back from intraday gains to levels last seen in June 2008.
    Big miners lost ground after copper fell for a second day on
concern about the impact of slower growth in China and its
volatile property sector on metal inventories
    BHP Billiton Ltd fell 1.2 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd
 dropped 1.9 percent.
    Overnight, Rio Tinto said it suspended bauxite mining at its
Gove operations in Australia following the death of a worker.
Separately, sources said Brazilian mining firm B&A Mineração has
pulled out of talks to buy BHP's stake in the Mount Nimba iron
ore deposit in Guinea.  
    On Tuesday, a mixed bag of earnings reports buffeted
trading.
    Australian shopping mall owner Westfield Group 
dropped 2.1 percent after its net profit fell 6.7 percent for
the year ended December 2013.
    Property developer Lend Lease Corp. lost 4.0
percent after reporting a 16 percent fall in its first-half net
profit. 
    AGL Energy Ltd fell 1.6 percent after the country's
second-largest electricity and gas company said underlying first
half profit fell 11.4 percent after a record warm winter reduced
demand for energy.    
    Going the other way, Worleyparsons Ltd rose 7.1
percent after the company said it expected to report underlying
net profit for full year 2014 in line with its own guidance,
noting the outlook for global capital expenditure in
hydrocarbons remains positive.
    Whitehaven Coal Ltd added 3.2 percent after it said
markets for thermal coal used in power generations remained well
supplied this year after reporting a first half loss of A$11.6
million.  
    "The earnings outlook is reasonably positive going forward.
There is a little bit of profit taking here and there as we get
close to the end of the reporting period," said Winston Sammut,
investment director at Maxim Asset Management.    
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1
percent to 4,960.2.
    

 (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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