January 14, 2013 / 5:41 AM / 5 years ago

Australia shares inch up, investors eye U.S. earnings

(Adds details, comments)
    SYDNEY, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched up 0.2
percent on Monday as investors turned their eyes toward the U.S.
corporate earnings season.
    Banks were mixed. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia
 lead the gains, rising 0.4 percent while National
Australia Bank, which has less weight in the index, was
up 0.7 percent. Australia New Zealand Banking Group and
Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent
    Defensives finished the day mostly firmer.
Telecommunications provider Telstra gained 0.2 percent
while gas utility provider AGL Energy rallied 0.7
percent. Blood products maker CSL Ltd bucked the trend,
slipping 0.4 percent.
    "The market's only mildly up. We have the rest of the region
in positive territory, so it's in line," said Peter Esho, chief
market analyst at City Index. 
    "Copper prices are slightly firmer and with all that in mind
I think that's why our market is up marginally, very very
    The S&P/ASX 200 index finished the day 10.2 points
higher at 4,719.7. The index fell 0.3 percent last week,
snapping seven straight weeks of gains.
    "The local market continues to hold its ground about the key
4,700 level despite poor local data over the previous week as it
waits for leads from the U.S. reporting season," said Evan
Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets.
    Miners finished the session with mixed results. Global iron
ore producer BHP Billiton Ltd slipped 0.3 percent while
rival Rio Tinto Ltd gained 0.3 percent.
    Australia's Altona Mining dropped 10.7 percent
after announcing it may sell its Roseby copper project or seek
to merge with another firm after global miner Xstrata 
decided not to buy into Roseby in Queensland state. 
    A private gauge of Australian inflation showed price
pressures remained benign in December, suggesting there was
still scope to cut interest rates further if needed to support
the economy. 
    Meanwhile, Australian job advertisements in newspapers and
on the Internet fell again in December, a 10th straight month of
decline that pointed to softer demand for labour. 
    "I think it just complicates the reasons for and against
another rate cut next month," said Esho.
    "Inflation is an issue now, it's starting to come back yet
the demand picture is still quite soft so it just adds more
competing data to the decision making process," he said.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rallied 0.5
percent, or 22.2 points to 4,153.9, a fresh five-year high.

 (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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