August 14, 2014 / 2:35 AM / 3 years ago

Australia shares buoyed by strong earnings; Telstra, Fairfax shine

* Australian shares get earnings lift, up 0.6 pct

* Wall Street strength also underpins

* Winners beat losing stocks 146 to 40 (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Naomi Tajitsu

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Aug 14(Reuters) - Australian shares added 0.6 percent on Thursday, underpinned by a firmer finish on Wall Street, better-than-expected earnings for Australia’s largest telecommunications provider Telstra, and a return to profit for media group Fairfax.

Telstra Corporation Ltd climbed 1.9 percent to A$5.54, its highest since March 2002, after its full-year earnings came in above forecasts, with the company saying it would buy back A$1 billion in shares while also hiking its dividend.

Telstra’s surge supported other stocks in the telecommunications sector, with TPG Telecom Ltd gaining 2.3 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 31.3 points to 5,546.0 by 0206 GMT. The benchmark dipped 0.3 percent on Wednesday. U.S. stocks ended higher overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average returning to positive territory for the year.

The Australian benchmark hit a six-year high of 5,644.2 points on July 31 but fell to a trough of 5,425.2 on August 8 on geopolitical concerns in Ukraine and Gaza, though some better-than-expected earnings have helped the market recover from those levels.

“We had a positive offshore lead, and then we’ve had some pretty solid results from Telstra, Fairfax and Crown, all of them have produced earnings ahead of expectations,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investments at Perpetual in Sydney.

Australian media group Fairfax Media Ltd reported a return to profit on Thursday, posting annual net earnings of A$224.4 million after slashing costs, but warned of difficult trading conditions. Shares in Fairfax soared 7.6 percent to three-week highs of A$0.95.

Among media companies, Ten Network Holdings was up 0.9 percent, while Nine Entertainment Co was flat.

Crown Resorts Ltd jumped 4.2 percent after reporting a 35.2 percent jump in normalised annual net profit on Thursday.

Industrial property development company Goodman Group Pty Ltd climbed 1 percent after saying its full year revenue and other income soared 46.7 percent to A$1.68 billion.

QRX Pharma plummeted 50.7 percent to all-time lows of A$0.03 after saying it is halting its Muxduo development program.

New Zealand’s benchmark NZX-50 index rose 3.25 points to 5,057.95, tracking higher Asian bourses while the local market was also boosted by gains in Nuplex.

The resins and coatings manufacturer jumped 5.5 percent to hit a one-month high of NZ$3.10 (2.62 US dollars) after its full-year profits came in slightly stronger than analyst forecasts.

Further NZX gains were tempered by an 8.4 percent slide in Guinness Peat Group to a seven-month low of NZ$0.060.

Shares in the New Zealand-based investment holding company, which is also listed in Britain, continued to fall after it said on Wednesday that it was dealing with British regulators concerning deficits in its pension funds.

Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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