January 22, 2013 / 12:51 AM / in 5 years

Australia shares rally, at fresh 20-month high

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
    SYDNEY, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.4
percent to a fresh 20-month high on Tuesday, headed by the
mining and financials sectors and supported by a solid lead from
Europe.
    Investors will keep an eye on the outcome of the Bank of
Japan's policy meeting which is expected to announce aggressive
asset buying plans to stimulate the economy.
    "As Japan is our biggest regional market, subdued news from
the Bank of Japan could mute our current rally," said Evan
Lucas, market analyst at IG Markets.
    Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd
 were up 0.6 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.
    Banks were mostly firmer, with Westpac Banking Corp 
up 0.6 percent, although National Australia Bank eased
0.4 percent on a report that Spanish bank Santander denied
speculation it is interested in buying NAB's troubled British
banks.
    The S&P/ASX 200 index was 16.8 points higher at
4,794.3 by 0029 GMT. The benchmark inched up 0.1 percent to
4,777.5 on Monday.
    "We didn't get much of a lead from global markets last night
because the U.S. market was closed," said Steven Daghlian,
market analyst at Commonwealth Securities.
    "We've taken a lead from the European markets more so. We're
still up for the fifth consecutive session and we're up 3
percent or so for 2013, so off to quite a positive start."
    Defensives were strong, with blood products maker CSL Ltd
 up 0.7 percent and Australia's no.1 telecommunications
provider Telstra inching up 0.1 percent. 
    Food retailers Wesfarmers Ltd and Woolworths Ltd
 climbed 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.2
percent or 6.8 points to 4,178.4.

    
    STOCKS ON THE MOVE
    
    * Macmahon Holdings surged 7.8 percent to A$0.28
after the Australian mining services company was awarded a A$1.8
billion ($1.89 billion) contract by Fortescue Metals Group Ltd
. 
    (0025 GMT)
    
    * Perseus Mining Ltd dropped 3.7 percent to A$1.88
on the back of a disappointing production report which showed
gold production was 13 percent below revised production guidance
range for the quarter.
    (0025 GMT)
    

 (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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