Australia shares gain 0.5 pct on strong earnings, miners up

Reuters - UK Focus

* ASX 200 rises 0.5 percent in broad-based gain

* 159 shares higher, 31 shares lower, 10 shares unchanged (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, August 19 (Reuters) - Australian shareswere steered higher by a batch of robust earnings results onTuesday, with support also coming from gains in mining stocksand an upbeat session on Wall Street.

The market started off on a firm footing on a burst ofencouraging earnings, led by the likes of Australian steel makerand iron ore miner Arrium Ltd, which soared 8.3 percentafter posting an 83 percent jump in annual underlying profit.

Investors also lapped up Amcor Ltd after the firmreported a 25 percent increase in full-year net profit. Thestock gained 4.1 percent to 2-1/2 month highs of A$10.70

Insurers edged higher, with Insurance Australia Group Ltd adding 0.4 percent after saying its full year netprofit soared 58.9 percent. Suncorp Group climbed 1.3 percent.

"I think overall our trend is still up, at least to datethere's no evidence that that will change given the resultswe've seen so far," said Don Williams, chief investment officerat Platypus in Sydney.

Heavyweight miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 - news) Ltd jumped 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, ascopper edged higher overnight. BHP Billiton (NYSE: BBL - news) is due to report itsfull year results after the closing bell.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 25.5 points, or 0.5percent, to 5,612.6 by 0310 GMT. The benchmark ended 0.4 percenthigher on Monday.

Among other earnings, Toll Holdings Ltd jumped 4percent to near six-month highs of A$5.62 after the transportand logistics company posted a 5.7 percent increase in annualnet profit.

QBE Insurance Ltd (Other OTC: QBEIF - news) was one of the few negatives onthe earnings front, as the stock was put on a trading halt afterits half year net profit slumped 18 percent to $392 million, hitby higher-than-expected claims in overseas markets.

New Zealand shares followed the strong offshore lead withthe benchmark NZX-50 index hitting a near three-weekhigh. It was last trading about 0.9 percent higher at 5,119.27,with session gains the strongest in more than three months.

Gains were led by top stocks, with the biggest companyFletcher Building (NZSE: FBU.NZ - news) 1 percent higher at NZ$9.14, a threeweek high. Spark, the former Telecom Corp, ContactEnergy, and Trade Me (NZSE: TME.NZ - news) all rose more than 1.5percent.

Fletcher Building and Trade Me, along with Mighty RiverPower report their annual results on Wednesday.

The biggest decline was a 3.6 percent fall for clothingretailer Hallenstein Glasson to NZ$2.94 as it confirmedits full year profit will plunge 25 percent.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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