Australian Market Edges Higher

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(RTTNews.com) - The Australian stock market is edging higher on Wednesday after opening lower following the negative lead from Wall Street and as investors digested a raft of local corporate earnings results.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is up 5.40 points or 0.09 percent to 5,946.30, off a low of 5,920.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 6.10 points or 0.10 percent to 6,051.70.

In the mining space, BHP Billiton is losing almost 5 percent after the mining giant on Tuesday reported a 37 percent fall in its first-half profit, while Rio Tinto is lower by more than 1 percent.

Fortescue Metals said its half-year profit fell 44 percent and revenue declined 18 percent. The miner also cut its interim dividend. The miner's shares are down more than 3 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is down more than 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is adding 0.4 percent despite a fall in gold prices.

Oil stocks are mostly higher after crude oil prices advanced overnight. Oil Search is adding 0.4 percent and Woodside Petroleum is rising more than 1 percent.

Santos' shares are declining more than 2 percent after the company reported a full-year net loss that narrowed from last year despite an impairment charge, while revenue rose 21 percent. The company also said its board has decided not to pay an interim dividend.

The big four banks are mixed. ANZ Banking is rising 0.3 percent and National Australia Bank is edging up less than 0.1 percent, while Westpac is down 0.2 percent and Commonwealth Bank is lower by 0.3 percent.

Wesfarmers said its first-half profit fell 87 percent on impairments against its UK hardware business and Target department stores, but maintained its interim dividend. The company's shares are gaining 4 percent.

A2 Milk said its first-half profit more than doubled and that it has entered into an alliance with Fonterra to produce new products as well as to enter new markets. The company's shares are gaining more than 24 percent.

Downer EDI reported a first-half loss on goodwill impairment as well as writedowns, while revenue surged 74 percent. The engineering company's shares are advancing more than 1 percent.

Sirtex Medical reported a 13 percent increase in first-half profit on higher margins, while revenue declined 3 percent. The biotech company's shares are down 0.2 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar slipped below the $0.79 level U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7878, down from US$0.7918 on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed modestly lower on Tuesday as traders digested recent volatility and expressed some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets. Traders were also reluctant to make more significant moves amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front.

The Dow slumped 254.63 points or 1 percent at 24,964.76, the Nasdaq edged down 5.16 points to 5.16 points or 7,234.31 and the S&P 500 fell by 15.96 points or 2,716.26.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just below the unchanged line, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.6 percent and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil prices rose on Tuesday to near $62 a barrel. WTI crude added $0.22 to close at $61.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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This article appears in: Stocks , World Markets , Politics , Oil

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