(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, April 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.6 percent to a four-and-a-half year high on Tuesday, led by financials as Australia and Zealand Banking Group rallied on strong first-half earnings, while sentiment was also supported by hopes of more central bank stimulus.
ANZ, Australia's fourth-largest bank, jumped 3.8 percent to A$31.24, its highest share price since October 2007. The country's fourth-largest bank reported a 10 percent rise in first-half cash earnings to A$3.18 billion and announced a forecast-beating dividend of A$0.73, up 11 percent on the previous year.
"The beat here will impress as ANZ had been expected to be moderate at best versus its peers and this might just see it legging up on NAB and WBC," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets.
"ANZ is currently lagging in last place in the current bank rally, which started back in July 2012."
"The question is whether going forward we'll continue to get these sorts of surprises from the banks because we're not getting those sorts of surprises from any other sector," said Damien Boey, equity strategist at Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS - news) .
"In my view, we probably won't [hold at the 5,100 point level]."
A run of weak data from the United States, China and Germany over the past few weeks have weighed on the Australian market, but underlying demand has been sustained by a resilient domestic economy and a strong earnings season. The benchmark index has gained around 10.9 percent so far this year.
Global miners were mixed. BHP Billiton Ltd slipped 0.3 percent while Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) edged up 0.2 percent. Rio Tinto plans to almost halve the size of its London head office, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, cutting more than 200 jobs as it tries to slash more than $5 billion in costs by the end of next year.
Copper rose on Monday, extending a recovery from 1-1/2 year lows hit last week supported by hopes for more U.S. and European central bank monetary easing and on signs of life in the physical markets. Gold also rose.
Defensives were mostly weaker. Consumer staples retailer Woolworths Ltd plumbed 1.8 percent while rival Wesfarmers Ltd (Other OTC: WFAFF - news) slipped 0.2 percent. Biotechnology companies CSL Ltd (Other OTC: CMXHF - news) and Cochlear Ltd (Other OTC: CHEOF - news) fell 0.5 percent and 0.9 percent respectively. Top telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd bucked the trend, rising 0.7 percent.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index ended at an all-time high on Monday as growth-oriented stocks, including energy and technology, lead the way to the index's sixth rise in the past seven sessions.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 19.6 points to 4,600.6, a record high.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Whitehaven Coal Ltd fell 0.5 percent to A$1.95 after the company reported its coal production for the March quarter and said the value of thermal coal in the first half has been reduced by general weakness in the market price.
* Sundance Resources Ltd lost 2.9 percent to A$0.10 after the international iron ore company terminated the scheme implementation agreement with Hanlong Mining Investment Ltd and is free to resume negotiations with other Chinese groups.
* Westfield Group (Other OTC: WEFIF - news) slipped 0.1 percent to A$11.57 after the shopping centre giant sold its 50 percent stake in Almeida Junior shopping centres in Brazil to the Almeida family at book value. It bought the stake in 2011 for A$440 million in what was its first new market entry in more than a decade.
* OceanaGold Corp dropped 2.4 percent to A$2.00 after the gold miner reported a revenue of $95.6 million in the first quarter from its New Zealand operations.
* Shares in Tox Free Solutions Ltd were in a trading halt after the company signed an agreement to acquire assets of Wanless Enviro Services Pty Ltd, Smart Skip Pty Ltd, and Jones Enviro Services Pty Ltd in a deal worth $85 million.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)