Australia Stocks Rise, With Dividend Plays Among Gainers

MarketWatch Pulse

Australia stocks gained altitude in early Thursday trading, helped by strength for financials and some of the higher-yield dividend stock, with the S&P/ASX 200 rising 0.4% to whittle down a 0.5% loss in the previous session. With February unemployment data due later in the day expected to cement the case for a May interest-rate hike, Dow Jones Newswires cited IG as saying investors may turn increasingly to high-yielding shares. WorleyParsons Ltd. , which carrying one of the highest dividend yields among the Australian blue chips, rose 3.6% despite weakness in other energy-related shares Woodside Petroleum Ltd. down 0.7%, Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. down 0.7%) as Nymex crude futures fell but Brent crude rose. Australian bank stocks, which also carry respectably large dividends, were mostly firmer (Australia & New Zealand Banking Group , Westpac Banking Corp. and National Australia Bank Ltd. all up 0.5% each). Offsetting those gains, senior miners and iron extractors lost ground as iron-ore prices saw fresh weakness overnight. Among them, BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Ltd. fell 0.7% each, while Atlas Iron Ltd. lost 2%, Arrium Ltd. retreated 2.8% and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. gave up 1%. Also on the downside, shares of Ten Network fell 1.3% as the Australian Financial Review reported that suitors for the media company -- Discovery Communications Inc. and Foxtel, which is owned by Telstra Corp. and MarketWatch parent News Corp. -- had revised their takeover offer downward. Shares of News Corp. rose 0.5%, while Telstra added 0.2%.

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