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Strong blue-chip earnings nudge Australia shares higher

* Fortescue up 3.1% on forecast hike, bumper dividend

* CSL jumps 5% as half-year profit rises

* ANZ jumps 4.4%, hits near 1-year high

* Woodside Petroleum down 3.7% on annual profit slump (Rewrites throughout to update share movement)

Feb 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose marginally on Thursday after swinging between positive and negative territory, as a reversal in iron ore mining giants and strong earnings reports by blue-chip firms pushed the benchmark index higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.25% at 6,902.60 by 0120 GMT, after losing up to 0.14% earlier in the session.

Heavyweight mining stocks gained up to 0.5% after declining as much as 1.6%, as top iron ore miners changed course.

Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3.1%, bouncing back from an earlier loss of up to 2.6% on the back of annual iron ore shipment forecast hike, strong first-half profit and a higher-than-expected interim dividend.

After market hours on Wednesday, Rio Tinto reported its best annual earnings since 2011 and declared a record dividend payout. Its shares rose up to 1%, after losing as much as 2.6% earlier in the session.

Healthcare was the biggest boost to the benchmark, adding 3.2% on the back of biotech firm CSL.

CSL shares jumped 5% after the company reported a rise in half-year profit as demand for vaccines and blood plasma products increased.

Financials were up 0.5%, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group gaining as much as 4.4% to hit its highest since February last year, after it reported a rise in first-quarter profit and said it was well-positioned for the rest of the year.

Among losers, energy stocks slipped 1.7%, dragged by a 3.7% drop in Woodside Petroleum after Australia’s top independent gas producer posted a 58% slump in its annual underlying profit.

Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers declined up to 3.1% after it warned of a moderation in retail sales growth at its Bunnings and Officeworks divisions from March.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained as much as 0.9% to 12,785.68, with financials and utilities contributing the most. (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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