SYDNEY, AAP – Shares were half a per cent higher on the ASX at the start of a week which will greatly shape interest rate expectations here and abroad.

All share categories were higher except for financials at 1200 AEDT on Monday after US markets closed a little higher at the end of last week.

ASX telecommunications and utilities shares were the top performers early in the trading day.

Westpac unveiled a $3.5 billion share buyback after a surge in annual earnings on the back of a strong home loans market and lower provisions.

Australia’s second-largest lender reported full year cash earnings, which strip out items such as one-off events, more than doubled to $5.35 billion.

However investors were worried about lower margins from stiff competition and a low-rate environment.

They sent shares lower by almost six per cent to $24.16.

The Reserve Bank’s monetary policy decision on Tuesday will be keenly anticipated after the bank on Friday chose not to defend soaring bond yields.

Analysts have tipped the central bankers will bring forward their forecast of the next rate rise from “not before 2024”.

Monetary policy will also be in the spotlight in the US when the Federal Reserve meets this week.

Royal Bank of Canada analysts have tipped the central bank will begin easing bond buying.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 41.2 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 7364.9.

The All Ordinaries was up 53.7 points, or 0.70 per cent, to 7692.8.

The other banks were mostly lower following Westpac’s earnings. ANZ lost 1.31 per cent. NAB lost 0.33 per cent. The Commonwealth Bank was higher by 0.62 per cent.

Seven West Media is trying to buy Prime Media Group for about $131 million.

Seven said buying the regional broadcaster would help the combined company reach about 90 per cent of Australia’s population.

The Prime board will ask shareholders to vote for the proposal next month.

Seven shares were up 8.79 per cent to 49 cents.

Prime shares were higher by almost 70 per cent to 39 cents.

Victorian telecommunications provider AusNet has agreed to a takeover from a Brookfield Asset Management consortium.

The consortium would buy all shares for about $10.2 billion, or $2.65 each.

The AusNet board has preferred the bid to that of energy provider APA Group.

AusNet shares were up 4.45 per cent to $2.58.

APA shares were higher by a little more than three per cent to $8.45.

The big miners were mixed. BHP fell 0.62 per cent. Fortescue gained 1.61 per cent. Rio Tinto was little changed.

The Australian dollar was buying 75.09 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower from 75.49 cents at Friday’s close.