Australia shares rise, hover at 3-week highs on earnings support

Reuters - UK Focus

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SYDNEY, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.4percent on Wednesday to near 3-week highs as Wall Street pickedup overnight and solid earnings from a handful of stocks helpedbuoy the market, though a fall in index heavyweight CSL (Other OTC: CMXHF - news) undercutsome gains.

The broader index was supported by bluechip mining andfinancial stocks. BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) gained 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Other OTC: CBAUF - news) was flat aftertouching 1-month highs earlier in the session. CBA reported arecord interim profit as a reduction in bad debts and growth inits loan book overcame narrowing margins.

"There are no ominous signs of impeding danger in theresult," said Morningstar (NasdaqGS: MORN - news) analyst David Ellis in a note.

"Just another strong and consistent performance building ona long and enviable track record of steadily increasing profitsand dividends."

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group climbed 1.2percent while Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.5 percent.

Vaccine maker and biotechnology company CSL Ltd lost 3.5 percent as it lifted first-half profit by 3.4 percent,but its results were dented by the settlement of a U.S.antitrust class action.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 26 points to 5,280.5 by0024 GMT, its fifth consecutive session of gains.

The benchmark has had a lacklustre start to the year,falling some 1.4 percent so far in 2014 as investors held backfrom equities on worries of slowing growth in China and stimulustapering in the U.S..

Wall Street rose for a fourth straight session overnight asCongress agreed to advance legislation extending U.S. borrowingauthority and the Federal Reserve's new chief held off frommaking any changes to its schedule for trimming stimulus.

Oz Minerals (Stuttgart: OXR.SG - news) surged 11.6 percent to near 4-monthhighs of A$3.79 after the gold and copper miner flagged higherproduction in 2014. The miner however, also reported a full-yearloss after tax of A$294.4 million.

"It sounds like they are throwing out everything with thisresult, so new MD, new CEO coming and starting again," said IG (LSE: IGG.L - news) 'sEvan Lucas, a market strategist based in Melbourne.

Elsewhere, Goodman Fielder (Other OTC: GDFLF - news) tumbled 7.4 percent totouch two-month lows, after the food company reported a firsthalf loss of A$65 million.

Building materials maker Boral Ltd jumped 9.2percent to its highest in almost three years after it reported a73 percent rise in first-half profit.

A measure of Australian consumer sentiment slipped for athird month in February as households fretted about the economicoutlook and family finances adding a dampener to the market.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.7percent or 34.7 points to 4,883.6.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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