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Sydney, Nov 26 Australian shares inched higher
on Monday, led by the country's big miners and gold stocks,
following Wall Street's rally on strong Black Friday sales and
on expectations of an aid agreement later in the day for Greece.
Bellwether miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto
Ltd gained 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent respectively.
Gold miners Newcrest Mining jumped 1.2 percent and
Resolute gained 1.7 percent.
Steelmakers were also strong, with Fortescue Metals Group
up 2.7 percent.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia edged up 0.7
percent, but banks were mixed overall.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was 6.4 points
higher at 4,419.4 by 0106 GMT. The benchmark ended flat on
Friday but was up 1.8 percent for the week.
"We were expecting a much bigger gain than what we're
seeing, so it's actually quite disappointing," said Juliette
Saly, market analyst at Commonwealth Securities.
"There was a lot of optimism coming through in the U.S. and
Europe. We were expecting gains of three quarters or one percent
when you look at what happened on Wall St overnight."
Wall St 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. But other sources involved
in the talks cautioned the funding gap was far bigger than
Greece has suggested.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched up 0.1
percent or 3.8 points to 4,012.1.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Rare earths miner Lynas Corp was up 0.3 percent
to A$0.72 following a large protest in Malaysia's capital
against the opening of the Australian company's rare-earths
processing plant on the country's east coast.
* Supermarket giant Woolworths Ltd slipped 0.4
percent to A$28.55. The food retailer announced the successful
closure of the Offer of Stapled Units in SCA Property Group, a
newly established Real Estate Investment Trust owning a
portfolio of Australian and New Zealand shopping centres.
* New South Wales-based gold explorer Sovereign Gold Company
leaped 10.9 percent to A$0.255 after it announced a $21
million funding agreement with Chinese State-Owned Enterprise
(SOE), Jiangsu Geology and Engineering to accelerate exploration
activities on its gold tenements.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)