MELBOURNE, Feb 7 Australian shares rose 0.2 percent on Thursday, bolstered by top miners after iron ore prices rose and by index heavyweights National Australia Bank and Telstra Corp, which reported higher earnings. Economic data also supported sentiment. Australian employment rose by 10,400 in January while the jobless rate held steady at 5.4 percent, beating market expectations. "The job market isn't shooting the lights out but by no means is unemployment soaring," said Savanth Sebastian, Economist at broker CommSec. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 12 points at 4,932.7 as of 0136 GMT. It rose 0.8 percent on Wednesday. Asian shares and the euro paused on Thursday, marking time ahead of a European Central Bank policy decision and remarks from ECB President Mario Draghi on prospects for the euro zone economy. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.1 percent to 4,211.95. Index heavyweight BHP Billiton rose 0.2 percent while rival miner Rio Tinto gained 0.8 percent after iron ore prices strengthened. STOCKS ON THE MOVE: * Top lender National Australia Bank rose 1.3 percent to A$28.48, its highest since April 2010, after it reported a 4 percent rise in first-quarter cash earnings, boosted by rising revenues and a fall in bad debts. "It looks cheaper than stocks such as Commonwealth Bank which looks pricey in comparison," said Angus Gluskie, portfolio manager at White Funds Management, who has a stake in NAB. "The outlook for them is not bad so we're comfortable holders and interested buyers at the right points in time," he said. 0118 GMT * Top phone company Telstra Corp rose 1.4 percent to A$4.645 after it posted an 8.8 percent rise in first-half net profit, bolstered by growth in its mobiles business. "It's a firm result. It's met most expectations and exceeded some," said Gluskie. 0118 GMT * Whitehaven Coal Ltd fell 3.6 percent after the timeframe for government consideration of its Maules Creek project was extended by three months. 0117 GMT * News Corp fell 3 percent after reporting December quarter results. 0117 GMT * Australand Property Group fell 2 percent after it said it expects first half earnings will be less than a year earlier. 0117 GMT * Tabcorp Holdings Ltd rose 1.6 percent after it reported net profit of A$72.9 million for the half year. 0115 GMT * Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd fell 1.1 percent after the competition regulator outlined factors that may affect its final decision on the proposed purchase of 60 percent of Tiger Australia. 0114 GMT (Reporting by Miranda Maxwell; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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