February 25, 2013 / 6:17 AM / 5 years ago

Australia shares push higher despite weaker China factory survey

(Adds details and comments)
    SYDNEY, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.8
percent, ending below Monday's highs after a survey showed a
pull-back in Chinese factory activity, but strong financial and
retail stocks kept the index near a 4-1/2 year peak hit last
    Some big miners shed gains after the HSBC China flash
purchasing managers' index (PMI) for February slipped to 50.4,
the lowest in four months. The number indicated growth in
China's giant manufacturing sector pulled back from two-year
    Rio Tinto Ltd lost 0.9 percent, and the world's No.
4 iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd fell 1.7
percent. Top miner BHP Billiton Ltd managed to edge up
0.1 percent.
    "That's probably based on the fact that China hasn't
expanded as fast as they were hoping," said IG Markets
strategist Evan Lucas.
    Financials continued a strong run, with all four major banks
trading higher. Westpac Banking Corp led the pack with
a 1.7 percent rise, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia,
the country's biggest lender, gained 0.3 percent. 
    Stocks paying a strong dividend, such as the banks, were
well received by the market, said City Index analyst Peter Esho.
    "These income-paying stocks are the place to be for the time
being, until commodities prices bounce, particularly the base
metals," Esho said.
    Defensive stocks also pushed higher, with Australia's
biggest telco company Telstra Corp Ltd rising 1.1
    The retail sector had a particular strong day, as department
store David Jones Ltd and Myer Holdings Ltd 
climbed 3.4 percent and 2.6 percent respectively.
   Supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd gained 1.3 percent,
while rival Coles-owner Wesfarmers Ltd rose 2.1
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index gained 37.7 points
to 5,055.8, according to the latest data. The index rose 0.8
percent on Friday, but lost 0.3 percent last week.     
    The stock market has climbed sharply since November on
receding euro zone and U.S. debt concerns, and on a
better-than-expected earnings season for Australian companies. 
    With the earnings season winding down, investors will focus
on what's happening in Japan, said analysts.
    Sources told Reuters on Monday that Japan's government was
likely to nominate Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko
Kuroda, an advocate of aggressive monetary easing, as its next
central bank governor. 
    "He will be seen as a fairly market-friendly selection,"
said IG Markets' Lucas.
    "It's quite good for our market because it will mean that
volumes continue to be good on the ASX and Asian investors
continue to push into our market," he said.
    Australian television station-owner Ten Network Holdings
, which sacked its chief executive late on Friday,
surged 6.8 percent.  
    Beach Energy Ltd soared 5.8 percent, after it sold
interests in two gas blocks in Australia to U.S.-based Chevron
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.3
percent to 4,226.4. 

 (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Borsuk)
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