(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares were steady onTuesday morning (Frankfurt: TDM.F - news) , holding near three-month highs as solidearnings from global miner BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) eclipsed a handful ofweaker results.
In recent session the market has moved up rapidly as theearnings season has so far largely surprised on the upside.
The resources sector underpinned the market. BHP BillitonLtd led the way, climbing 1.9 percent to aone-year high of A$38.75 after reporting a 31 percent rise infirst-half profit as it cut debt towards levels that may prompta share buyback.
"It's a very stock specific trading environment over thenext two weeks", said Peter Esho chief market analyst at InvastFinancial Services.
"I think the index is still in an upward trend, and I thinkit's very good to see stocks like BHP and other material stockssurprising on the outside."
The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 1.1 points to5,383.9 by 0122 GMT, its highest point since November 18. Thebenchmark gained 3.7 percent last week, snapping fiveconsecutive weeks of losses and marking its biggest weekly risesince December 2011.
A string of strong earnings from blue-chip companies,including banks and miners, has helped the market rebound from ayear-to-date low of 5,052.2 touched on February 5, putting theindex 0.6 percent ahead for the year.
Australian packaging group Amcor Ltd tumbled 6.2percent to A$10.11 after posting hefty gains in recent weeksahead of its earnings. The company reported a 21.2 percent risein first-half net profit.
"I think it's been bid up on a lot of high hopes, on bigexpectations over the past year. It's run very hard, I wouldn'tbe very surprised if I saw Amcor (Frankfurt: AXZA.F - news) slip below A$10," Esho said,adding that he is advising his clients to avoid the stock.
Taking the shine off the earnings season somewhat were ahandful of mid-range companies, which were sold off afterdisappointing results.
Coca-Cola Amatil lost 6 percent to 2-1/2 year lowsof A$11.14 as the Australian soft drink bottler posted an 83percent fall in full-year profit.
Pacific Brands Ltd plunged 11.1 percent after theAustralian clothing company reported a first half net loss aftertax of A$219 million.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1percent to 4,891.5.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
- Company Earnings
- BHP Billiton