(Adds share moves, market comment)
* S&P/ASX index up 0.4 pct to 5,408.1
* Underpinned by defensive stocks; miners lose ground
SYDNEY, April 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.4 percent in light trade on Wednesday morning after Wall Street managed to end higher, though mining stocks lost ground on weaker metals prices and slower growth in China.
Trade has thinned ahead of the upcoming Easter holiday, with investors reluctant to open new positions.
“There is not a great deal of sentiment out there at the moment. People are basically sitting on the sidelines, looking for a bit of guidance from the international market,” said Martin Angel, a dealer at Patersons Securities.
The market is trading near six-year highs marked last week, with gains for IT, healthcare and consumer staple stocks helping the S&P/ASX 200 index climb 19.9 points to 5,408.1 by 0129 GMT. That comes after a 0.6 percent rise on Tuesday.
Among miners, shares in BHP Billiton slipped 0.3 percent despite the company reporting strong third-quarter iron ore production and lifting its iron ore production guidance.
Smaller rival Rio Tinto fell 0.2 percent.
Challenger Ltd, a funds management company, jumped 4.8 percent after it said total group assets and funds under management increased of 21 percent over the past 12 months and 1 percent for the quarter.
Iluka Resources Ltd plunged 7.2 percent after reporting a 18.6 percent fall in its March quarter minerals sands production.
Yancoal Australia Ltd lost 3.9 percent after the company said two workers died at its Austar Coal Mine.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent to 5,094.4. (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)