Australia shares up 0.5 pct, banks & Wall St support subdued market

Reuters - UK Focus

* S&P/ASX200 up 0.3 percent in subdued trade

* Banks underpin moves higher, but gains capped by miners oniron ore drop (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, April 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.5percent on Tuesday morning (Frankfurt: TDM.F - news) , steered by modest gains on WallStreet and interest for banking stocks, though volumes werelight in an abbreviated trading week as the Easter holiday leadsto Anzac day on Friday.

Blue-chip banks Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp added 0.8 percent and0.7 percent. Mid-tier Bank of Queensland Ltd (Other OTC: BKQNY - news) advanced0.8 percent.

Miners were hit after Chinese steel rebar futures droppedfor a fifth day on Monday on concerns that seasonal demand fromthe world's top consumer of the alloy would not be strong enoughto soak up hefty supply. Index heavyweight Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) lost 0.8 percent, while OZ Minerals Ltd dropped 0.9 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd slipped 0.1percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced for its fourthconsecutive session of gains, up 27.1 points at 5,481.3 by 0152GMT, in subdued trade. The benchmark rose 0.6 percent lastThursday. Markets were closed on Friday and Monday for Easter.

The benchmark touched a near 6-year high of 5,503.5 on April10, helped by upbeat economic data including a March jobs reportwhich handily beat expectations for a second month.

"Not surprisingly fears of a large stock market correctionhave subsided as stocks drift back to all-time highs," said TimRadford, global investment manager at Rivkin Securities in anote to clients, adding that investors will focus on U.S.company earnings results in the absence of local macro events.

U.S. stocks advanced modestly on Monday in subdued tradingas investors showed hesitation in the wake of a strong rallylast week and before a slew of key earnings releases this week.

Elsewhere, defensive were higher with consumer retail stapleWesfarmers Ltd and blood-products maker CSL Ltd (Other OTC: CMXHF - news) each adding 0.5 percent.

Some of the smaller caps were also enjoying a strongmorning. Metals X Ltd soared 6.3 percent to two-weekhighs of A$0.20 after reaching an agreement for a royaltyrestructure at Higginsville Gold Operations with Morgan Stanley (Berlin: DWD.BE - news) Commodities.

Astron Ltd rocketed nearly 60 percent to A$0.35,its highest since May 2012, after entering into a deal with theChina Machinery Engineering Corp for supply and installation ofequipment for the Donald Mineral Sands Project.

Meanwhile, Australia's Crown Resorts Ltd is set tobid for a $2 billion casino complex in Las Vegas, according tomedia reports, underscoring the Melbourne-based casinooperator's ambition to expand to more markets. Shares in Crown were down 0.5 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1percent or 7.6 points to 5,095.8. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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