[WELLINGTON] Australian shares steadied on Thursday after three sessions of declines as talk of an interest rate cut grew louder, but expectations of further capital raising by some major banks kept a lid on market gains.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 13.6 points to 5,210.9 by 0212 GMT, pulling away from a one-week trough of 5,164.2 plumbed on Wednesday.
Encouraged by an overnight jump in bullion prices, gold miner Newcrest Mining rose 4.3 per cent, leading the mining sector higher. Rio Tinto put on 1.9 per cent and BHP Billiton added 1.4 per cent.
The major banks were subdued. Westpac Banking Corp remained on a trading halt a day after the No 2 mortgage lender said it will raise A$3.5 billion (US$2.57 billion) to meet new, stricter capital rules.
Speculation that ANZ will follow suit saw its shares fall more than 1 percent. National Australia Bank eased 0.4 per cent.
A surprise decision on Wednesday by Westpac to push up home loan rates, which amounted to a general tightening of monetary conditions, fuelled talk that the Reserve Bank of Australia will have to cut its cash rate as early as Nov 3.
Investors barely reacted to a soft set of employment numbers released earlier. "The September jobs data do nothing to change my view that the RBA will need to ease official interest rates again to head off higher owner occupier mortgage rates as the major banks seek to follow Westpac's lead in seeking to recoup higher funding costs flowing from higher capital requirements," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital. "November's Melbourne Cup Day RBA meeting is likely to see a cut, failing that then early next year."
New Zealand stocks were up for a fifth session, pushing the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index to its highest in nearly two months.
The index was up 0.4 per cent, or 22.67 points, at 5,749.80 in afternoon trade, having gained more than 2 per cent in a week. It climbed as far as 5,750.14, reaching a high last seen on Aug 24.
Helping underpin the market, online advertiser Trade Me Group climbed 3.5 per cent, insurance company Tower Ltd put on 1.6 per cent and steel goods maker Steel & Tube Holdings advanced 1.8 per cent.
A2 Milk Company shed 2.6 percent as the stock fell for a third day, reversing almost all of the 15 per cent gain earlier in the month.