Australia shares finish higher, optimism for U.S., Greece

SYDNEY Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:53am GMT

SYDNEY Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.3 percent on Monday, led by mining shares following Wall Street's rally on expectations of an aid agreement for Greece and strong U.S. retail sales.

U.S. markets rose on optimism in the retail sector after Black Friday sales kicked off the U.S. Christmas shopping season for retailers. The National Retail Federation expects sales to grow 4.1 percent this year.

Greece said the International Monetary Fund had relaxed its debt-cutting target, suggesting lenders were closer to a deal for a vital aid tranche to be paid to Athens. But other sources involved in the talks cautioned the funding gap was far bigger than Greece has suggested.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 11.2 points at 4,424.2. The benchmark ended flat on Friday but was up 1.8 percent for the week.

"The Australian market moved at its own pace today with traders needing further convincing that the Friday rally on Wall Street was legit and not solely fuelled by Thanksgiving cheer," said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.

"Traders a fairly measured approach as we await word from the Eurozone finance Ministers regarding Greek aid."

Bellwether miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.8 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively. Gold miners Newcrest Mining jumped 1.6 percent while Medusa was up 2.9 percent.

Steelmakers were also strong, with Fortescue Metals Group soaring 3.3 percent.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia edged up 0.3 percent, helping lead the index higher, but banks were mixed overall.

Defensives were weak, with blood products maker CSL Ltd and telecommunications giant Telstra both sliding 1.2 percent and food retailer Woolworths Ltd slipping 0.4 percent.

Woolworths newly listed SCA Property Group, which owns 69 shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand, rose four cents in its debut to A$1.44. The shopping centre trust raised A$472 million through a placement to institutional investors at A$1.40, giving the trust a valuation of A$1.4 billion.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.1 percent or 3.7 points to 4,012.3. (Reporting by Thuy Ong and Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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