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SYDNEY, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up 0.5 percent in a choppy morning session on Tuesday, as solid earnings from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group helped offset losses in companies with less-than-stellar results.
The market got off to an uncertain start after modest gains on Wall Street and a mixed batch of data and corporate earnings.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd climbed 1.5 percent as the nation’s third-largest bank by market value reported a 13 percent rise in first-quarter cash profit, putting it on track to meet its growth targets for this year.
Macquarie Group Ltd also looked in good shape with the investment bank saying its annual profit was on track to exceed A$1 billion this year, but the stock lost 3.5 percent after chief executive officer Nicholas Moore said client activity remained subdued for some businesses that face capital markets.
Cochlear Ltd was the hardest hit, tumbling 10.1 percent to 8-month lows of A$52.95 after the world’s biggest maker of hearing implants reported a 53 percent plunge in its first half profit.
“Some of the results have been a touch disappointing and that’s weighed a bit on sentiment,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment market research at Perpetual
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 23.3 points to 5,245.4 by 0116 GMT, eking out a fourth consecutive session of gains and hovering at 2-week highs. The benchmark rose 1.1 percent on Monday.
The Australian market has had a lacklustre start to 2013, falling 2.3 percent so far this year as fears about slowing growth in China and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering of its stimulus have seen investors selling out of local equities.
“At the moment the market is just drifting sideways, along the lines we’ve seen in global markets over the past day,” Sherwood said.
U.S. stocks ended with modest gains on Monday as investors digested recent market gains and looked ahead to new Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s first testimony before lawmakers.
Elsewhere, a measure of Australian business conditions rose to its highest in nearly three years in January, and firms felt more confident about the outlook for orders and employment, a survey reported on Tuesday. Other data showed Australian home loan commitments for December fell 1.9 percent.
Among some of the other big-cap financial stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.7 percent while Westpac Banking Corp edged 0.5 percent higher.
A rise in gold prices on expectations Yellen will stay the course in winding down bullion-friendly monetary stimulus helped buoy the sector. Top Australian gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 0.9 percent.
A handful of defensives drifted lower, with consumer retail staple Wesfarmers Ltd slipping 0.4, while biotechnology company CSL Ltd lost 0.5 percent.
Feeding more pain on the earnings front, Bradken Ltd , a global manufacturer, tumbled 11.1 percent to near 7-month lows of A$4.63 after reporting its half yearly profit was down 18.5 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent to 4,851.3.
Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam