Australia's stock market rode higher on gains for the mining shares early Thursday, as investors awaited the latest employment data. The S&P/ASX 200 added 0.9% in the first 45 minutes of trade, with Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. among the top-gaining blue chips -- up 7.8% -- after it updated investors on its production, raising its shipping guidance and offering an upbeat view on Chinese steel demand, according to Dow Jones Newswires. This overcame headwinds from losses for spot iron-ore prices, as well as a Goldman Sachs note saying iron miners faced an "existential challenge" from falling prices. Among fellow iron plays, Arrium Ltd. and BC Iron Ltd. advanced 4.8% and 1.9%, respectively, while among the senior miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. rose 2.4%, and Rio Tinto Ltd. improved by 0.8%. Gold miners followed the yellow metal higher, with Newcrest Mining Ltd. up 2.8% and Kingsgate Consolidated Ltd. up 3%. Energy shares similarly tracked gains for crude futures, as Oil Search Ltd. climbed 2%, and Beach Energy Ltd. rallied 5%, though the same market moves hurt the airlines, with Qantas Airways Ltd. down 1.3% and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. down 1%. A rebound for banking shares were also key to the broader market's improvement, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia , National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. all up 1% each, and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group adding 0.9%. In the media space, broadcaster Nine Entertainment Co. Holdings saw its shares surge 8.8% after agreeing to sell its ticketing business, Nine Live, for the equivalent of about half a billion U.S. dollars. The moves came ahead of March employment data, due later in the day.
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