The Australian share market edged higher as weakness among the banks, miners and energy companies was offset by gains by retailers and industrial stocks.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 4.6 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 6,037.1 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 3.8 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,144.1 points.
Patersons Securities Economist Tony Farnham said mixed oil prices and lower base metals prices weighed on the energy and mining-related materials sectors.
He said the market was also up against a general risk-off mood sparked by renewed fears of a trade war between the US and China.
“Trump has toned down the upbeat way he’s been talking about China trade negotiations and is now saying they might have to increase auto imports on China because of national interests,” he said.
“There is a degree of nerves out there which was not reflected as much in the US markets overnight, which were more focused on the Federal Open Market Committee minutes that were reasonably market friendly.”
Mr Farnham said the financial sector was a key source of weakness.
ANZ fell 0.3 per cent to $27.76, Commonwealth Bank dropped 0.3 per cent to $69.59, National Australia Bank declined 0.4 per cent to $26.86, while Westpac was steady at $28.46 after the Federal Court cleared it of manipulating the bank bill swap rate, a key rate rate at which institutions borrow and lend money.
The court did find Westpac engaged in unconscionable conduct, which Mr Farnham said was deemed a “lesser charge”.
Elsewhere in the financial sector, embattled wealth manager AMP fell 0.5 per cent to $3.91, QBE Insurance declined 1.5 per cent to $9.86 and investment bank Macquarie Group slipped 0.2 per cent to $116.24.
Rio Tinto dropped one per cent to $83.91, Fortescue Metals shed 0.7 per cent to $4.59 and gold miner Newcrest gave up 0.8 per cent to $20.62, while BHP Billiton bucked the trend to rise 0.1 per cent to $33.91.
Energy giant Woodside Petroleum was down 0.6 per cent at $33.59 and Oil Search shed 1.1 per cent to $8.32.
Among the strongest performers in the consumer discretionary sector was poker machine supplier Aristocrat Leisure, which gained eight per cent to $30.04 after the company reported a 2.8 per cent increase in half-year net profit.
Infant formula maker A2 Milk was another strong performer, adding 5.7 per cent to $9.83 following a 13.5 per cent slide in the last four trading sessions.
Qantas gained 1.4 per cent to $6.37 and toll road owner Transurban was 2.3 per cent higher at $11.81.
The Australian dollar is stronger against the US dollar following the release of the FOMC minutes, which Mr Farnham said confirmed that there would likely be three Fed rate hikes this year, instead of a possible four.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 4.6 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 6,037.1 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 3.8 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,144.1 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was up seven points, or 0.12 per cent, at 6,043 points
* National turnover was 2.7 billion securities traded worth $6.3 billion.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 75.63 US cents, from 75.33 US cents on Wednesday
* 82.87 Japanese yen, from 83.08 yen
* 64.56 euro cents, from 64.06 euro cents
* 56.60 British pence, from 56.25 pence
* 109.34 NZ cents, from 109.23 NZ cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,296.04 per fine ounce, from $US1,290.24 per fine ounce on Wednesday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:
* CGS 5.75 per cent May 2021, 2.1691pct, from 2.188pct on Wednesday
* CGS 2.25pct May 2028, 2.8056pct, from 2.8413pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.185 (implying a yield of 2.815pct), from 97.150 (2.850pct) on Wednesday
* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.785 (2.215pct), from 97.755 (2.245pct)
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEST previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEST previous local session)