(Corrects to add direction of BHP move in second paragraph, name of Fed Chairman in eighth paragraph)
SYDNEY, July 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded flat on Wednesday after Wall Street ended lower overnight ahead of testimony by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s chairman to Congressional committees, but a rise in metals prices and a robust production report from BHP Billiton helped pare losses.
Miners were supported by a rise in copper and gold prices. BHP Billiton Ltd rose 1.9 percent to A$34.09, a 6-week high after the world no.1 miner posted record iron ore output .
Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.5 percent and Iluka Resources Ltd jumped 4 percent after reporting a June-quarter mineral sands revenue of A$241.8 million . Australia’s largest gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped 1.3 percent.
“The miners have posted some solid production reports which has really pushed the materials space up,” said Stan Shamu, IG’s market strategist in Melbourne.
“The market’s fared a little better than most expected early on.”
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 1.9 points to 4,984.1 by 0118 GMT. The benchmark edged 0.1 percent higher on Tuesday.
Financials, which have high dividend yields of 5 percent to 6 percent, dragged on the market. Top lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp both slipped 0.5 percent. National Australia Bank fell 0.4 percent.
“(It‘s) anticipation about what’s going on with (Federal Reserve Chairman Ben) Bernanke’s testimony tonight and tomorrow night,” said Tim Radford, global analyst at Rivkin Securities.
“It’s got a big bearing on yield stocks, there’s a bit of cautious trading.”
Elsewhere high-yielding defensives were also trading lower. Flagship telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd shed 0.5 percent while staples retailer Wesfarmers Ltd lost 0.3 percent.
The local bourse has posted gains for the past six sessions, rebounding from a trough of 4,632.3 points hit on June 25 as receding worries about the Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing programme bolstered investor sentiment.
The S&P 500 snapped its eight-day winning streak on Tuesday after disappointing sales from Coca-Cola, while investors turned cautious on the day before the Federal Reserve chairman’s congressional testimony begins.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index was trading flat at 4,574.5 points.
* Billabong International Ltd rocketed 42.8 percent to A$0.36, its highest point since early May, a day after the company said it will sell its DaKine clothing and accessories brand and jettison Chief Executive Launa Inman as part of a A$395 million ($359 million) refinancing deal.
* Alkane Resources Ltd soared 10.7 percent to 6-week highs of A$0.47 after the company signed a framework agreement with Treibacher Industrie.
* Senex Energy Ltd jumped 2.2 percent to 8-week highs of A$0.70 after the company said its net oil production guidance will be 1.4 to 1.6 million barrels for 2013/2014.
0116 GMT Reporting by Thuy Ong; Additional reporting by Michael Sin; Editing by Eric Meijer