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Australia shares edge higher as banks buoy, takeover target Aquila rises
June 11, 2014 / 2:55 AM / 3 years ago

Australia shares edge higher as banks buoy, takeover target Aquila rises

* Banks help market eke out small gain, Aquila soars

* Miners fall as copper drops to 1-month low

* Investors cautious ahead of employment data due on Thursday (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched up on Wednesday, as gains for banking stocks slightly outweighed dips for mining and defensive sectors as Wall Street’s flat finish limited leads.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 5.7 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,469.7 by 0225 GMT. The benchmark edged 0.1 percent higher on Monday.

A measure of Australian consumer sentiment steadied in June as the shock from May’s unpopular federal budget began to fade and worries about family finances and the near-term economic outlook eased a little.

Westpac Banking Corp added 0.3 percent, as did Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Shares in takeover target Aquila Resources Ltd rose 2.7 percent to A$3.61, their highest since May 2012, after a block trade of shares went through at a price 10 percent higher than Chinese state-owned Baosteel Resources has offered for the company.

Copper dropped to a one-month low on Tuesday as an investigation into metal financing in China prompted concern that a crackdown could hit trade in the metal.

BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd both lost 0.9 percent. Elsewhere, Lynas Corporation Ltd fell 3.5 percent

Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, said metal prices were moving sideways ahead of Australia May jobs data due on Thursday.

“The numbers will give a really good indication of how people have taken the budget,” he said. “From the market’s perspective, the budget is not as bad as some people are reporting - which is why people are holding out because everything is looking just slightly expensive.”

Among defensive stocks, consumer retail staple Woolworths Ltd lost 0.7 percent and Sonic Healthcare Ltd slipped 0.2 percent.

Downer EDI Ltd sank 10.4 percent to 2-1/2 month lows of A$4.74 after the company said its Goonyella Riverside mine contract has been terminated, with an impact on work-in-hand of approximately A$360 million.

Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd jumped 1.9 percent after saying it is expected to achieve underlying profit before tax of A$370 million-A$380 million for the year to June 30.

New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1 percent or 7.1 points to 5,172.3, in quiet trade as investors remain cautious ahead of the central bank’s rate decision on Thursday.

New Zealand software developer ikeGPS Group Ltd is considering raising up to NZ$25 million through an initial public offering to fund growth in the United States. (Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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