Australia shares edge up on miners, Goodman Fielder tumbles on profit warning

April 2, 2014

(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, April 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged 0.3 percent higher on Wednesday, underpinned by miners and a record rise on Wall Street though sentiment was soured somewhat by a profit warning from Goodman Fielder (Other OTC: GDFLF - news) .

Miners rose as iron ore futures jumped to a near four-week high amid expectations for a seasonal pick-up in steel demand and hopes that Beijing may step in to support economic growth.

Top (Taiwan OTC: 8419.TWO - news) global miner BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.8 percent. The index heavyweight is considering a range of options to simplify its portfolio of assets, including a possible spin-off of unwanted businesses such as aluminium and nickel into a separate company, the miner said on Tuesday.

Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) climbed 0.6 percent while PanAust Ltd jumped 4.8 percent.

"While precious metals prices remain subdued, the recovery in base metals prices from mid-March will offer the ASX 200 a nice breadth of performance today," said Scott Schuberg, CEO at Rivkin Securities in a note.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 12.7 points to 5,402.3 by 0125 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Tuesday.

Investors were encouraged by a third consecutive rise for U.S. stocks on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 ending at a record close after a factory activity survey indicated economic growth was gaining traction following a harsh winter.

The Australian market has pulled back from a 5-1/2 year high of 5,462.3 points hit on March 7 as geopolitical tension in Ukraine and worries about slowing growth in China have crimped investor sentiment.

Analysts said investors were focussing on prospects of earnings growth. While the recent earnings season produced largely solid results, pockets of weakness indicate that some business are facing challenging times.

Goodman Fielder Ltd tumbled 18.9 percent to A$0.495 after the food company downgraded its earnings guidance for the fourth quarter. The stock touched its lowest point since August 2012 of A$0.48 earlier in the session.

Elsewhere, Australian approvals to build new homes fell 0.5 percent in February, pulling down some housing-exposed stocks. Mirvac Group (Stuttgart: MJB.SG - news) was flat and Leighton Holdings slipped 0.3 percent.

Prana Biotechnology Ltd lost 3.6 percent, extending a grim downturn after plunging over 70 percent in the last session. The company said its experimental drug to treat Alzheimer's disease failed a mid-stage study.

Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd added 0.2 percent. The company is facing a class action lawsuit from shareholders over a profit downgrade made last year.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was flat at 5,120.6.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)