state of play at last friday's close

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    Australian Stocks Rise for 2nd Day, Led by Banks; Rio Advances

    Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Australian stocks rose for a second day. Westpac Banking Corp. led lenders higher as bond yields dropped, making banks' dividends relatively more attractive.

    Rio Tinto Group gained after copper prices in London and in New York climbed to record highs, and after the company said rising Chinese steel output was creating a shortage of iron ore.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index increased 30.6, or 0.7 percent, to 4574.3 at the 4:05 p.m. close in Sydney. About 11 stocks advanced for every eight that fell. The index gained 1.2 percent this week, its third weekly rise.

    Australian shares ``remain good value thanks to strong profits and still low bond yields,'' said Shane Oliver, who helps manage about $54 billion at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney, in an e-mailed note. ``Growth in China is continuing to provide a strong backdrop for our resources stocks.''

    New Zealand's NZSX 50 Index fell 0.4 percent to 3269.44 at the 5 p.m. close in Wellington. The index posted a 1.8 percent drop this week.

    A measure of financial stocks, including banks, contributed the most to the Australian benchmark's rise.

    Westpac, the nation's fourth-biggest lender, added 40 cents, or 1.8 percent, to A$22.45. National Australia Bank Ltd., the nation's biggest lender, rose 26 cents, or 0.8 percent, to A$32.78.

    The yield on the Australian government's 10-year bond fell 7 basis points, or 0.07 of a percentage point, to 5.44 percent, making banking stocks' dividends relatively more attractive. The S&P/ASX 200 Banks Index has a dividend yield of 4.73 percent, compared with a yield of 3.9 percent for the benchmark.


    Rio Tinto Group, the world's third-biggest mining company, added 50 cents, or 0.8 percent, to A$59.71.

    Copper prices rose 2.2 percent to a record in New York and London on speculation demand for the metal from builders and manufacturers is outpacing production from mines.

    Rio's Chief Executive Leigh Clifford said rising steel production in China is leading to an extreme shortage of iron ore, the Age reported. Clifford was speaking as negotiators from iron ore exporters arrive in Japan to start annual price negotiations, the Age said.

    ``Estimates in resources and mining-related sectors are likely to move higher again in the near-term,'' David Cassidy, a strategist at UBS AG in Sydney, said in a note to clients today. Cassidy was rated the top-ranked strategist in Australia by BRW magazine this month. Cassidy said mining stocks, including Rio, were among his top picks.

    The S&P/ASX 200 Index's futures contract for December rose 0.6 percent to 4576. The broader All Ordinaries Index added 0.6 percent to 4516.8.

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

    Australian stocks:

    Coal producers: Excel Coal Ltd., Centennial Coal Ltd. and other Australian coal stocks fell after Switzerland-based Xstrata Plc, the world's biggest exporter of coal used in power plants, settled contracts for 2006 with Taiwan Power Co. at a lower price than exporters were targeting, which may put pressure on other contract prices, Citigroup Inc. said.

    Centennial Coal (CEY AU) slid 19 cents, or 4.8 percent, to A$3.80. Excel (EXL AU) fell 14 cents, or 2.1 percent, to A$6.50.

    Oil-related stocks: Crude oil prices in New York fell 1.9 percent to $57.80 a barrel, the lowest in more than three months, after the International Energy Agency reduced its forecast for world oil consumption. Oil recently traded at $57.70 in after- hours trade.

    Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL AU), Australia's second- biggest oil producer, slid A$1.35, or 4.1 percent, to A$31.80. Santos Ltd. (STO AU), the nation's third-biggest oil producer, fell 15 cents, or 1.3 percent, to A$11.08. Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN AU), Australia's biggest airline, rose 10 cents, or 2.8 percent, to A$3.66. Jet fuel makes up about 15 percent of the carrier's costs.

    Biota Holdings Ltd. (BTA AU), an Australian influenza drugs maker, soared 51 cents, or 36 percent, to A$1.95. The company, which earns a 7 percent royalty fee from GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza, said the French government has announced it intends to increase its pandemic stockpile of Relenza to 9 million units from 200,000 units over the next two years.

    BlueScope Steel Ltd. (BSL AU), Australia's largest steelmaker, climbed 18 cents, or 2.5 percent, to A$7.38. The company said its board approved a plan to buy back as many as 25 million shares.

    Iluka Resources Ltd. (ILU AU), the world's biggest zircon producer, jumped 31 cents, or 3.9 percent, to A$8.27. The company said a venture found the mineral after drilling in the Eucla Basin in South Australia.

    Macquarie Bank Ltd. (MBL AU), Australia's biggest listed investment bank, gained A$1.67, or 2.4 percent, to A$70. The company wants to buy 7,000 automatic teller machines from the nation's four biggest banks to create a new infrastructure fund, the Australian Financial Review reported, without saying where it got the information.

    News Corp. (NWS AU), the media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, rose 30 cents, or 1.4 percent, to A$21.10 after saying first-quarter revenue rose 10 percent, buoyed by box office sales of ``Fantastic Four'' and advertising at Fox News Channel. The company turned to a $433 million loss after an accounting change, following a year-earlier profit.

    Seven Network Ltd. (SEV AU), Australia's second-ranked television network, climbed added 4 cents, or 0.5 percent, to A$8.32. The company said first-half earnings before interest and tax are on track to rise about 40 percent after winning more viewers with shows such as ``Lost'' and ``Dancing with the Stars.''.

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