aust. stocks seen firmer, nz opens mixed

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    Australian stocks seen firmer, NZ opens mixed
    08:36, Friday, 25 February 2005

    SYDNEY, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Australian stocks are expected to
    open slightly higher in early trade after Wall Street rose and as
    investors at home, their nerves frayed by four straight days of
    heavy corporate earnings reports, brace themselves for day five.

    New Zealand opened mixed, with a 0.8 percent gain from market
    leader Telecom nudging the benchmark index into positive
    territory. The NZSX 50 Index <.NZ50> rose 8.8 points to 3,154.18,
    1 percent below its record high earlier this month.

    U.S. stocks were mainly higher, with the key Dow Jones
    industrial average <.DJI> advancing 0.7 percent.

    The Australian benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index finished 22.3
    points, or 0.54 percent, down at a session low of 4,096.9 on
    Thursday as earning announcements from a large swathe of
    blue-chip companies failed to impress.

    Brokers and fund managers said concerns over rising interest
    rates had sparked investors' initial penchant for selling,
    leaving the key stocks gauge oversold on the charts and 2.4
    percent below a record high of 4,195.6 touched on Feb. 7.

    Share price index futures signalled a firmer start,
    standing 14 points up, an 8.9 points discount to the S&P/ASX 200.

    Investors will assess results from National Foods ,
    Seven Network , Suncorp-Metway , Sims Group
    and Caltex .

    In New Zealand, chemicals manufacturer Nuplex fell
    15 cents to NZ$6.15 after it failed to impress investors after
    reporting a 5 percent rise in first half net profit.

    Trading of WMC Resources in New York ended
    up 0.4 percent after French nuclear energy firm Areva
    said it was in non-binding talks with WMC over the possible
    purchase of Australia's Olympic Dam mine.

    News Corp. dipped 0.06 percent in New York
    after shares in Gemstar-TV Guide International , in which
    News Corp. is the largest shareholder, fell as analysts
    downgraded the stock on concerns about its near-term results.

    Gold for April delivery slipped 40 cents to $435.70 an
    ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division, while
    in London aluminium fell 4 percent from a 10-year high as fund
    selling undermined sentiment by Thursday's close, analysts said.

    U.S. crude oil futures ended higher in volatile trading on
    Thursday, keeping prices above $51 a barrel. April crude
    settled 22 cents higher at $51.39 a barrel, after soaring to
    $52.05, the highest level since the Nov. 1 peak of $52.50.
    ((Sydney newsroom, +61-2 9373 1800,
    [email protected]))

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