The Australian share market has inched higher thanks to a buoyant energy sector, although financial and mining stocks are keeping overall gains in check.

After a flat open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 10.2 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 5,853.9 points at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.

The broader All Ordinaries was 11.1 points, or 0.19 per cent, higher at 5,919.8.

The Aussie dollar, already up from Wednesday’s 71.38 US cents, spiked by another 0.15 US cents to 71.60 after official data showed Australia’s unemployment rate edged lower in December.

The energy sector was by far the strongest locally, rising 1.64 per cent as Santos jumped 4.03 per cent following its announcement its 2019 gas production could rise by up to 32 per cent.

Caltex rose 1.29 per cent to $26.67, Origin Energy 1.91 per cent to $7.215 and Oil Search 1.13 per cent to $7.585.

But the mining sector turned red for a fourth consecutive session, with Rio Tinto and South32 falling 0.51 and 0.75 per cent respectively after iron ore prices fell overnight.

Gold miners plunged even deeper, Northern Star losing another 4.26 per cent a day after flagging rising costs.

Regis and Evolution also fell sharply, the latter losing 5.04 per cent after also warning of higher costs ahead.

The tech, health and consumer discretionary sectors showed healthy gains, but the heavyweight financial sector put downward pressure on the headline indicies by sitting flat.

The big four banks were all in the red by between 0.08 and 0.35 per cent, with ANZ the best performer and NAB the worst.

Wall Street struggled for direction overnight, but staged a late recovery to finish in the black despite lingering economic anxieties and tensions over the US government shutdown.