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Australian, New Zealand: Stocks edge up in volatile trade

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[SYDNEY] Share indexes in Australia and New Zealand crept higher on Monday, but trade in some stocks was volatile as investors responded to company results.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 per cent or 10.8 points to 5,541.70 by 0215 GMT. The benchmark gained 0.6 per cent last week and had opened lower, but recovered.

Among the biggest movers were condom maker Ansell Ltd , which surged as much as 14 per cent on news it may sell its sexual health division.

Retailer JB Hi-Fi added 6.7 per cent and Aurizon , fell 6.5 per cent.

"It's been a bit of a rocky ride today - the profit reporting season will remain in focus," said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at Commonwealth Securities.

"We had a mixed performance from those reporting today, but there's no major economic news out today either to really move the needle one way or the other this afternoon, that's why we're pretty quiet."

Falls among miners were offset by gains among financial stocks. The main movers were Newcrest Mining and National Australia Bank.

Newcrest fell 4.3 per cent after announcing a 12 per cent drop in profit. National Australia Bank added 0.8 per cent after announcing a third-quarter profit of A$1.6 billion (S$1.65 billion).

Aurizon shares dropped 6.5 per cent after the company said its underlying profit decreased 16 per cent.

JB Hi-Fi posted increased sales and an 11.5 per cent rise in profits.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was trading up 0.1 per cent or 3.57 points at 7,366.67, weighed by some offshore jitters.

The biggest gainers were Steel & Tube, which was up 6.9 per cent after it posted a strong rise in its full-year net profit Friday despite low prices for steel and increased competition.

Retirement village operator Summerset added 4.6 per cent after its half-year result Monday was ahead of expectations on strong sales.

A2 Milk, due to report later this month, was up 2.4 per cent. Macquarie Equities Investment advisor Brad Gordon said the stock was likely benefited from upgraded guidance from Synlait Milk late last week.

Contact Energy added 0.8 per cent after its FY result was largely in line with expectations.

Courier Freightways Ltd fell 1.0 per cent after its result despite a rise in full-year net profit.

"It was a good, solid, strong result, but the market had probably all priced it in," said Mr Gordon.