EVENING REPORT (5pm AEST)
The Australian share market finished only marginally higher on Wednesday, despite good gains offshore. US market sentiment was buoyed by earnings news with the Dow Jones Index up 0.5 per cent.
Our market reached a high of 5488 points on the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) today, but closed only 3.9 points higher to 5470.8.
Banking stocks eased, with the sector down 0.3 per cent. Investors elected to book profits after a recent strong run-up in banking stocks and ahead of ANZ's (ANZ) half year numbers which are due for release tomorrow.
Australian retail giant Woolworths (WOW) delivered 3Q results today which missed market expectations. For more detailed analysis, check out our Community section for a video update. Adjusted for later Easter timings this year, sales rose 5.9 per cent in the quarter to $15.2 billion. WOW shares fell 1.9 per cent to $37.32 but are up 10.3 per cent so far this calendar year. Rival Wesfarmers (WES), which reported sales numbers yesterday, was lower by 0.7 per cent to $42.71.
A stronger Euro and New Zealand dollar boosted Harvey Norman (HVN) 3Q sales, which rose 4 per cent to $4.33 billion. Sales from the company's Australian division were up 1.5 per cent, with the result impacted by the closure of 5 Harvey Norman outlets and one Joyce Mayne store in the period. HVN are up 0.6 per cent $3.28.
For more company news, please read the Mid-Session update.
In economic news, private sector credit (lending) rose by 0.4 per cent in March after a similar lift in February. Annual credit growth rose from 4.3 to 4.4 per cent - the strongest growth in five years, but driven by investor home loans. Meanwhile term deposits fell by 0.9 per cent over the year - the biggest decline in 11 years.
2 billion shares changed hands, worth $5 billion. 505 were higher, 441 were lower and 357 were unchanged.
The Australian dollar ended the session at US92.85c, up 0.18 per cent from yesterday's close.
In the US tonight, the Federal Reserve hands down the monetary policy decision. The ADP employment report is released together with GDP (economic growth), the Chicago purchasing manager's index and the employment costs report.
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