* Jobs data better than expected
* Rate cut less likely
* Biggest gain in a month (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY March 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares seized back early losses and rallied almost 1 percent on Thursday as better-than-expected jobs data encouraged investors to shrug off dwindling chances of an imminent rate cut to buy blue chip yield stocks.
The ASX dipped at the open on concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve would lift rates soon, but by 0111 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.9 percent or 51.1 points to 5844.5, its biggest gain since Feb. 18, following news Australian employment grew slightly in February, signalling that the economy is stronger than expected although curbing the chances of a rate cut very soon.
“Probably the RBA won’t cut, they’re pretty conservative,” said Quay Securities head of trading Tristan K‘Nell, referring to figures which showed the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent from 6.4 percent, while 15,600 more people got jobs.
“(The index) has run a little bit too hard. It might be a little bit of short-covering after a few down days. Realistically, there’s not a lot of incentive and I‘m expecting a pullback,” K‘Nell added.
Banks led the index higher, with Westpac Banking Corp up 1.5 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank all up about 1 percent.
Stocks exposed to consumer spending firmed, with Wesfarmers , owner of supermarket giant Coles, up 0.6 percent and rival Woolworths up 0.3 percent, while electronics retailers JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman Holdings were up 2 percent and 1 percent respectively.
Mining stocks, which have been hit by a collapsed iron ore price, fell. BHP Billiton was down 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto dropped 0.4 percent.
Miner Whitehaven Coal jumped 8 percent after securing a A$1.4 billion bank loan to refinance debt.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index declined 0.1 percent or 8.5 points to 5853.5, echoing declines in the United States overnight.
Index heavyweight telco Spark New Zealand led the benchmark lower, falling more than 1 percent, while Air New Zealand and Auckland International Airport fell by the same amount.
Tech major Xero slipped 0.4 percent.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Eric Meijer