Australian share market closes higher
Market watch top headlines
The Australian share market has closed higher on the back of a positive lead from the United States market and the prospect of a cut to interest rates.
On Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had risen 38.3 points, or 0.78 per cent, to 4,921 points, and the broader All Ordinaries index was up 37.9 points, or 0.77 per cent, at 4,940.5 points.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 39 points at 4,883 points, with 24,320 contracts traded.
"I think we've basically followed on from the sentiment in the US," CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said.
"Retail sales figures here (in Australia) were weak, but in a phase where the market wants to be optimistic.
"I think that's being parlayed into optimism on the increasing prospect of a rate cut."
On Wall Street on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lifted 99.22 points, or 0.71 per cent, to 13,979.30 points, following data showing the US services sector continued to expand in January.
Australian figures released on Wednesday showed that retail spending had fallen for three consecutive months, a sign that rising unemployment was weighing on consumer confidence.
Retail trade was down 0.2 per cent in December, seasonally adjusted, well below expectations of 0.3 per cent rise for the month.
Among the major banks, National Australia Bank advanced 32 cents to $28.11, Westpac climbed 21 cents to $28.13, ANZ gained 39 cents at $27.03, and Commonwealth Bank lifted 33 cents to $64.63.
In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton firmed 34 cents to $37.52 as announced job cuts at its Olympic Dam mine in South Australia in an effort to slash costs.
Rio Tinto picked up 75 cents to $68.08.
Medical centre owner Primary Health Care was steady at $4.49 as it lifted its first half profit by 50 per cent and forecast a rise in full year earnings of up to eight per cent.
Online real estate advertiser REA Group was 71 cents richer at $21.71 after it lifted its first half profit by 25 per cent.
Streetwear company Globe International was untraded at 45 cents as its directors were re-elected at a board spill meeting in Melbourne.
The price of gold in Sydney was $US1,673.95 per fine ounce, down $US1.91 on Tuesday's closing price of $US1,675.86.
National turnover was 2.17 billion securities worth $4.82 billion, with 549 shares up, 417 down and 342 unchanged.