February 19, 2013 / 6:06 AM / in 5 years

Australia shares hit 4-1/2 yr high, await BHP results

(Adds details, comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended 0.4
percent up at a fresh 4-1/2 year high on Tuesday, continuing a
recent rally on better-than-expected corporate earnings. 
    BHP Billiton Ltd rose 0.9 percent ahead of its
first half results, due on Wednesday morning. Rio Tinto Ltd
 eased 0.5 percent.
    "The market just waits for more instructions from the macro
and fundamentals, like BHP," said Biyi Cheng, head of Asia
Pacific dealing at City Index. "That will give us some
indication of how the mining sector performs."   
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 18.5 points
to 5,081.9, according to the latest data, which is the highest
since September 3, 2008. The index rose 0.6 percent on Monday.  
    The local market lacked any lead from Wall Street overnight
as U.S. markets were closed for a public holiday.   
    The major banks held their ground, led by a 0.4 percent gain
in Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Both Westpac Banking
Corp and National Australia Bank recovered
from earlier losses to return to positive territory.
    Energy stocks had a better run, with Australia's top oil and
gas producers Woodside Petroleum Ltd adding 1.7 percent
and Santos Ltd gaining 1.5 percent.
    Some high-yielding defensive stocks also pushed higher, with
telecommunications company Telstra Ltd rising 1.3
percent and blood products maker CSL Ltd climbing 1.6
    Ports and rail operator Asciano closed 1.9 percent
higher, after it reported a 74.1 percent rise in half year
profit after tax. 
    Coca Cola Amatil climbed nearly 2.0 percent after
it posted full year total revenue of A$5.18 billion, up 6.3
    Macmahon Holdings Ltd dropped 5.6 percent after it
rejected the latest offer from Sembawang, a unit owned by
India's Punj Lloyd Ltd. 
    Sonic Healthcare Ltd dived 8.5 percent after it
said it expects a full-year result at the lower end of its
previous forecast. 
    APN News & Media dropped 8.3 percent, after the
company's chief executive, chairman and independent directors
resigned late on Monday as major shareholder Independent News &
Media said it had lost confidence in the management and
scuppered a planned capital raising.   
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.7
percent to 4,244.2.


 (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang and Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric
Meijer/Simon Cameron-Moore)

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