Australia shares pare gains after soft China PMI, earnings support

Reuters - UK Focus

* ASX 200 touches fresh six-year high, but China PMI dentsuptick

* Earnings reports, Wall St support market

* 92 shares higher vs 98 shares lower, 10 unchanged (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, August 21 (Reuters) - Australian sharespared their gains on Thursday after a disappointing survey onChinese manufacturing took much of the shine off a handful ofstrong earnings reports and Wall Street's upbeat performance.

The soft China economic report quickly ate into early gainsthat were spurred by minutes of the Federal Reserve's Julymeeting, which lifted U.S. stocks as investors were reassuredthat the central bank will retain its ultra-low interest ratesfor some time.

Miners pulled back from morning highs as a preliminaryprivate survey showed growth in activity in China's vast factorysector slowed to a three-month low in August as output and neworders lost steam. ID:nL4N0QQ1S4] Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 - news) was off 0.5percent and BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.1.

Australia is sensitive to economic news out of China, itsbiggest export market.

A continued streak of strong earnings kept the market abovewater.

Investment bank AMP Ltd jumped 3.6 percent to itshighest since May 2013 of A$5.73 after lifting its underlyingprofit.

"We're seeing continued strong earnings reports comingthrough which is driving the market today," said Leanne Jones,an equities analyst at Bell Direct.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 9.7 points to 5,644.3 by0349 GMT, off a session high of 5,679.5. The benchmark rose 0.2percent on Wednesday to cap a fifth consecutive session ofgains, its longest winning streak since mid July.

Wesfarmers Ltd was a drag on the market, slumping2.4 percent to A$44.56 after some analysts downgraded the stockafter it touched a record high of A$45.88 in the previoussession.

Among other earnings results, Origin Energy Ltd jumped 4.6 percent after Australia's biggest energy retailer bysales said its net profit climbed 40 percent to A$530 million.

ASX Ltd climbed 1.1 percent to A$36.99, its highestsince March after posting a 10 percent rise in annual netprofit.

In the consumer space, Breville posted the biggestpercentage fall on the ASX 200, losing 16.1 percent, after thesmall kitchen appliances maker reported a drop in full year netprofit.

New Zealand stocks notched modest gains for a thirdsuccessive session, with the benchmark NZX-50 index rising 0.4 percent to 5,161.50, close to a three week high.

Top-stock Fletcher Building Ltd (NZSE: FBU.NZ - news) made further gainsafter the previous day's solid annual result, hitting a threemonth high before easing slightly to be 1.8 percent higher atNZ$9.34.

Telecoms provider Spark Ltd edged up 0.7 percent toa three-week high of NZ$2.935 ahead of its annual result onFriday.

Investors applauded the result of Port of Tauranga Ltd (Other OTC: PTAUY - news) , the country's biggest export port. The tightly heldcompany was up 3.9 percent to a record NZ$15.90, as it liftedearnings and said it expected further growth. (Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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