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Source: Reuters

Australia shares up on banks; QBE, Harvey Norman hit

Published: 25 Jul 2010 19:24:12 PST

MELBOURNE, July 26 - Australian shares rose 0.7 percent on Monday as local banks were boosted by a fairly clean bill of health handed down for European lenders, although QBE Insurance <QBE.AX> sank after it cut earnings forecasts.

Retailers were mixed, with Wesfarmers <WES.AX> up after better-than-expected supermarket sales and Harvey Norman <HVN.AX> down after Australian sales of TVs and computers fell in recent months.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index <.AXJO> gained 32.5 points to 4,490.6 as of 0308 GMT.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index <.NZ50> rose 0.3 percent to 3004.5.

The top banks all rose while global miners BHP Billiton <BHP.AX> and Rio Tinto <RIO.AX> firmed as copper prices held on to last week's gains.

STOCKS ON THE MOVE

* Electrical and furniture retailer Harvey Norman Holdings <HVN.AX> fell 2.5 percent to A$3.56 after it said like-for-like sales in Australia fell 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

Electrical sales fell as prices for flat TVs were reduced, while computer sales weakened, the company said. See [ID:nSYU010343]

0310 GMT

* Linc Energy <LNC.AX> continued to rise on hopes it was close to selling three coal tenements, after it reaffirmed it was in talks after receiving written offers for all three. Its shares last traded up 9.1 percent at A$1.675, adding to a 47 percent gain over the past two weeks.

0121 GMT

* QBE Insurance <QBE.AX> slumped 6 percent to A$16.90 in high turnover activity after Australia's top insurer by premium said net profit for the six months to June will fall by about 40 percent, hurt by equity losses and a lack of one-off gains. See [ID:nSGE66P00R]

0101 GMT

* Coal-to-groceries conglomerate Wesfarmers <WES.AX> jumped 2.2 percent to A$29.77 after its fourth-quarter like-for-like food and liquor sales beat broker forecasts. [ID:nSYU010340]

Rival Woolworths <WOW.AX> rose 1.5 percent.

"It was slightly better than Woolworths," said Shaw Stockbroking analyst Scott Marshall. 'Coles has greater upside potential." See [ID:nNSGE66P00R]

0018 GMT

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