Australia shares edge up on miners, Goodman Fielder tumbles on profit warning

Reuters - UK Focus

(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, April 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged 0.3percent higher on Wednesday, underpinned by miners and a recordrise on Wall Street though sentiment was soured somewhat by aprofit warning from Goodman Fielder (Other OTC: GDFLF - news) .

Miners rose as iron ore futures jumped to a near four-weekhigh amid expectations for a seasonal pick-up in steel demandand hopes that Beijing may step in to support economic growth.

Top (Taiwan OTC: 8419.TWO - news) global miner BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.8percent. The index heavyweight is considering a range of optionsto simplify its portfolio of assets, including a possiblespin-off of unwanted businesses such as aluminium and nickelinto a separate company, the miner said on Tuesday.

Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) climbed 0.6 percent while PanAust Ltd jumped 4.8 percent.

"While precious metals prices remain subdued, the recoveryin base metals prices from mid-March will offer the ASX 200 anice breadth of performance today," said Scott Schuberg, CEO atRivkin Securities in a note.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 12.7 points to 5,402.3 by0125 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Tuesday.

Investors were encouraged by a third consecutive rise forU.S. stocks on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 ending at a recordclose after a factory activity survey indicated economic growthwas gaining traction following a harsh winter.

The Australian market has pulled back from a 5-1/2 year highof 5,462.3 points hit on March 7 as geopolitical tension inUkraine and worries about slowing growth in China have crimpedinvestor sentiment.

Analysts said investors were focussing on prospects ofearnings growth. While the recent earnings season producedlargely solid results, pockets of weakness indicate that somebusiness are facing challenging times.

Goodman Fielder Ltd tumbled 18.9 percent to A$0.495after the food company downgraded its earnings guidance for thefourth quarter. The stock touched its lowest point since August2012 of A$0.48 earlier in the session.

Elsewhere, Australian approvals to build new homes fell 0.5percent in February, pulling down some housing-exposed stocks. Mirvac Group (Stuttgart: MJB.SG - news) was flat and Leighton Holdings slipped 0.3 percent.

Prana Biotechnology Ltd lost 3.6 percent, extendinga grim downturn after plunging over 70 percent in the lastsession. The company said its experimental drug to treatAlzheimer's disease failed a mid-stage study.

Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd added 0.2percent. The company is facing a class action lawsuit fromshareholders over a profit downgrade made last year.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was flat at5,120.6.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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