February 22, 2018 / 2:06 AM / 4 months ago

REFILE-Australia shares down on Wall St, Qantas rallies; NZ up on a2 Milk boom

(Corrects to drop extraneous word in first paragraph)

* Materials, consumer staples buffer impact of global cues

* BHP partially recovers losses

* Qantas Airways, A2 Milk jump

By Aaron Saldanha

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged lower on Thursday on weakness on Wall Street, while investors picked winners and losers among a barrage of earnings reports, with global miner BHP bouncing from losses this week and Qantas Airways rallying on strong profits.

Qantas Airways Ltd’s first-half underlying profit touched an all-time high, sending its stock up 9.8 percent, the most in over 2-1/2-years.

BHP was the benchmark’s dominant contributor, gaining 1.2 percent after losing ground over the past few days. The mining giant’s half-year results on Tuesday undershot expectations, although shareholders enjoyed a dividend boost.

Rival Rio Tinto Ltd was steady.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index lost 0.1 percent, or 6 points to 5,937.7 by 0043 GMT, dragged lower by energy and real estate stocks. The benchmark, which posted meagre gains on Wednesday, was partially held back by a weak lead from Wall Street overnight

Real estate stocks underperformed, as landlord Charter Hall Group reported a 30 percent fall in half-year net profit. Its stock fell as much as 1.4 percent.

Energy stocks slipped 1.2 percent, led by Woodside Petroleum Ltd, which lost as much as 3.5 percent to touch levels last seen in October.

West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) futures ended 0.2 percent lower ahead of data expected to show rising crude inventories in the United States.

The benchmark’s top gainer was Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd, up as much as 22.7 percent on a jump in its half-year underlying profit.

Smaller stocks were also in the spotlight, led by New Zealand’s a2 Milk Company Ltd, which surged 22 percent after first half profit hit a record thanks to higher demand in China.

“The micro stories are really supporting the index today. We are seeing staples flying today, a2 Milk is absolutely on fire,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets.

Other results that were influencing trade included online travel booking firm Webjet Ltd, which rose 21.1 percent to its highest level since August after half-year revenue rose more than two and a half times.

Across the Tasman Sea, consumer staples stocks again supported the market in New Zealand, where the S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.4 percent, or 117.27 points, to 8,317.54.

Shares of a2 Milk Company Ltd jumped over 24.4 percent to another all-time high.

Air New Zealand Ltd rose 5.2 percent after boosting its interim dividend and saying it was headed for its second highest annual profit.

Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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