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Australian shares have rebounded from a choppy morning to close higher on the backs of the big banks and discretionary consumer stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished up 42.7 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 6,139.2 points at 1615 AEDT on Thursday, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 38.8 points, or 0.63 per cent, at 6,214.6.

“It’s been a bit of a softer start, but really a pick up in the afternoon, led by the banks,” said CommSec market analyst James Tao.

“Generally, today’s market is really doing quite well. It’s really been lifting even though there’s been plenty of reasons not to.”

The big four banks were all up, led by Commonwealth at 2.01 per cent. ANZ was up 1.83 per cent, Westpac up 1.32 per cent, and NAB up 0.69 per cent.

Strong earnings results from Wesfarmers, Star Entertainment Group and Webjet also pushed the consumer discretionary sector up 3.91 per cent.

Wesfarmers shot up 6.88 per cent after it said it would give $1 billion of the $3 billion it raised from its Coles demerger back to sharesholders in a special dividend.

Star closed up 5.68 per cent after the casino operator raised its interim dividend from 7.5 to 10.5 cents and said tis revenue was up 0.9 per cent, to $1.11 billion.

And Webjet shares soared 30.61 per cent after the online travel company reported first-half profit rose by more than a third.

Competitor Flight Centre was up 2.88 per cent after announcing a special dividend despite first-half profit falling 17 per cent.

Mineral Resources was down 5.18 per cent after it reported its normalised profits had dropped 63 per cent, to $34 million. It cut its interim dividend from 25 cents to 13 cents.

Origin Energy was up 0.92 per cent after reporting a 52.6 per cent rise in its first-half underlying profit while Santos rose 0.43 per cent after the gas producer reported its full-year underlying profit had more than doubled.

Qantas rose 1.94 per cent after first-half profit fell 16.3 per cent to $498 million on higher fuel costs.

Nine Entertainment was up 7.17 per cent after reporting a $140.2 million first-half profit and saying it copped $43 million in costs related to its merger with Fairfax.

Mortgage Choice was up 8.51 per cent despite slashing its interim dividend and reporting a 44 per cent fall in first-half profit.

On the currency market, the Aussie had a whipsaw day, jumping almost half a cent to 72.07 US cents on strong monthly labour report before falling back to 71.55 US cents after Westpac predicted interest rates would be cut in both August and November.

Then it fell more after customs at China’s northern Dalian port banned imports of Australian coal.

Late on Thursday afternoon the Aussie was down more than a full percentage point on the day, buying 70.90 US cents, from 71.64 US cents on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 42.7 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 6,139.2 points at 1630 AEDT on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries was up 38.8 points, or 0.63 per cent, at 6,214.6.

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down 6 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 6095.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1730 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 70.90 US cents, from 71.64 US on Tuesday

* 78.51 Japanese yen, from 79.38

* 62.58 euro cents, from 63.15

* 54.41 British pence, from 54.84

* 104.10 NZ cents, from 104.26

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1338.87 per fine ounce, from $US1338.24 on Tuesday.