Australian shares rose for a second day, bolstered by  index heavyweights National Australia Bank and Telstra, which reported higher earnings.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index added 14.75 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4,935.7, after rising 0.8 per cent on Wednesday.

Economic data also supported sentiment. Australian employment rose by 10,400 in January while the jobless rate held steady at 5.4 per cent, beating market expectations.

"February is often a soft month for shares. However, the trend in share markets is likely to remain up this year," said Shane Oliver, strategist at AMP Capital.

"The positive momentum seen in recent months in share markets is indicative of a bull market, during which corrections are usually short-lived and mild. Share market valuations are still attractive," he said.

Top lender National Australia Bank rose 1.9 per cent to $28.63, its best close since April 2010, after it reported a 4 per cent rise in first-quarter cash earnings, boosted by rising revenues and a fall in bad debts.

"It looks cheaper than stocks such as Commonwealth Bank  which looks pricey in comparison," said Angus Gluskie, portfolio manager at White Funds Management, which has a stake in NAB.

Top phone company Telstra rose 1.3 per cent to $4.64 after it posted an 8.8 per cent rise in first-half net profit, bolstered by growth in its mobiles business.

"It's met most expectations and exceeded some," said Mr Gluskie.

Whitehaven Coal fell 5.3 per cent to $3.02 after the timeframe for government consideration of its Maules Creek project was extended by three months.

News Corp sank 3.2 per cent to $26.60 after reporting December quarter results.

Australand Property Group fell 2.3 per cent to $3.42 after it said it expects first-half earnings will be less than a year earlier.

Tabcorp Holdings rose 2.6 per cent to $3.16 after it reported net profit of $72.9 million for the half year.

Virgin Australia fell 3.3 per cent to 44 cents after the competition regulator outlined factors that may affect its final decision on the proposed purchase of 60 per cent of Tiger Australia.

BusinessDay with agencies