market headed for record close - bloomberg

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    Australian Stocks Advance, Led by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto
    Sept. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Australian stocks rose for a fifth day in six. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Group climbed to records after Deutsche Bank raised its price forecast for BHP, and Macquarie Equities Ltd. forecast Rio's earnings will grow.

    ``Both stocks keep breaking records and just when the market starts to query how much further they can go, the strategists lift spirits with an upgrade,'' said Steven Marsh, who manages about $380 million at Trust Co. of Australia Ltd. in Sydney. He owns a higher proportion of BHP and Rio shares than their weightings within the Australian benchmark index.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index climbed 8.10, or 0.2 percent, to a record 4561.50 as of 12:40 p.m. in Sydney. About five stocks gained for every four that fell.

    New Zealand's NZX 50 Index fell 0.2 percent to 3428.12 as of 2:40 p.m. in Wellington. Telecom Corp., which accounts for a quarter of the benchmark index, dropped.

    New Zealand's general election at the weekend, which awarded Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour Party one more seat than the opposition National Party, weighed on stocks which had risen in anticipation of a National win, said Stephen Wright, head client adviser at ASB Securities Ltd. in Auckland.

    ``That hasn't eventuated and we have now got a coalition government which may or may not include some anti-business types like the Greens,'' Wright said.

    Labour is seeking support from as many as five other parties to form government, which may limit Clark's ability to introduce new laws. National hasn't conceded the election and has begun its own coalition talks.

    BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, climbed 47 cents, or 2.2 percent, to A$21.46, an all-time high.

    John MacKinnon, an analyst at Deutsche Bank in London, on Friday raised his share price estimate for BHP's London-based shares to 960 pence, 9.9 percent above its close of 873.5 pence.

    Rio Tinto, the world's third-biggest mining company, gained A$1.60, or 3 percent, to a record A$55.37.

    ``We expect the positive trend in earnings momentum and revisions to continue as volume growth and strength in commodity markets translates into higher levels of profitability,'' Brendan Harris, Ben Lyons and Sam Catalano, analysts at Macquarie in Sydney, said in a note to clients. They maintained their ``outperform'' rating for Rio.

    UBS AG said on Sept. 15 that iron-ore prices may jump 10 percent next year. UBS raised its earnings estimates for BHP and Rio, and upgraded both shares to ``buy'' from ``neutral.''

    Producers of raw materials added 0.8 percent in New York Friday. President George W. Bush's pledge to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina brightened the outlook for the world's biggest economy.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index's futures contract for September was unchanged at 4572. The broader All Ordinaries Index rose 0.2 percent to 4508.40.

    The following shares also rose or fell. The stock symbols are in brackets after the company names.

    Australian stocks:

    Gold stocks: Thirty-four of 49 traders, investors and analysts surveyed by Bloomberg on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 from Seoul to New York advised buying gold. Eight respondents recommended selling the metal, and seven were neutral.

    Gold for immediate delivery rose as much as 40 cents to $460.15 an ounce. It traded up 15 cents at $459.90 an ounce at 9:33 a.m. Singapore time. On Sept. 16, gold closed at $459.75, its highest since June 1988.

    Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCM AU), Australia's biggest gold mining company, gained 34 cents, or 1.8 percent, to a record A$19.79. Oxiana Ltd. (OXR AU), the second-biggest gold miner, added 1.5 cents, or 1.2 percent, to A$1.24.

    Oil producers: Crude oil prices in New York plunged 2.7 percent to $63 a barrel, the lowest in six weeks, on signs record fuel prices are slowing growth in global energy demand. Oil was recently at $63.62 in after-hours trading.

    Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia's second-biggest oil producer, slid 6 cents, or 0.2 percent, to A$32.28. Santos Ltd. (STO AU), the nation's third-biggest producer, fell 5 cents, or 0.5 percent, to A$11.15.

    Commander Communications Ltd. (CDR AU), a telecommunications company, surged 13 cents, or 5.6 percent, to A$2.45. Commander may be subject to a takeover bid from an unidentified bidder, understood to be a rival telecommunications group, after an attempt was made to buy the stock earlier this month, the Australian Financial Review said without saying where it got the information.

    Mosaic Oil NL (MOS AU), an Australian oil and gas explorer, added 5 cents, or 2.1 percent, to 24.5 cents. The company said it hired Paterson Securities Ltd. as an adviser after it received approaches from potential investors.

    Orica Ltd. (ORI AU), the world's biggest maker of industrial explosives, was halted from trading pending an announcement of a ``corporate transaction,'' Orica said in a statement. A group comprising Orica and Macquarie Bank Ltd. is the favorite to buy Norwegian explosives company Dyno Nobel with a bid of between $1 billion ($765 million) and $1.5 billion, the Australian Financial Review reported Sept. 5, without saying where it got the information. Orica fell 20 cents, or 1 percent, to A$20.90.

    Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SGT AU), Southeast Asia's biggest telephone company, slumped 9 cents, or 4.5 percent, to A$1.90. The company said the full-year profit margin at its Optus Pty unit in Australia, which accounted for about 24 percent of earnings for the quarter ended June 30, is expected to be lower than earlier forecast because of competition and pricing pressures.

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