SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s share market was marginally higher after market giants CSL and Fortescue Metals pleased investors with first-half earnings.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 10.5 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 6895.7 at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries was higher by 6.5 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 7165.3.

Healthcare was the standout sector, up 2.43 per cent, after CSL reported a 44 per cent increase in net profit after tax.

There were losses of more than one per cent for energy and property.

Among the major sectors, financials was up 0.35 per cent but materials was down 0.2 per cent despite Fortescue impressing shareholders with its earnings and payout.

US markets were mostly lower as the prospect of rising inflation tempered optimism for a vaccine-led economic recovery.

Data showed inflation pressures building at factory gates, with US producer prices posting their biggest gain since 2009 in January.

Minutes of the US Federal Reserve officials’ meeting last month show they debated how to prepare the public for higher inflation. They also discussed the need to “stay vigilant” for signs of stress in buoyant asset markets.

In Australia, the unemployment rate dropped to 6.4 per cent in January as a further 29,100 people joined the workforce in the month.

Economists had expected the jobless rate to have eased from 6.6 per cent 6.5 per cent.

Victorians emerged from a five-day coronavirus lockdown, and the people of Auckland rose from a three-day one.

On the ASX, CSL said it had accelerated making the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with the first doses planned for late March.

The company declared an interim dividend of $1.04 per share, up nine per cent on the previous interim payout.

CSL was higher by 3.13 per cent to $289.99.

Fortescue Metals reported a first-half earnings increase of 66 per cent, after strong demand for iron ore from China.

The mining giant reported a net profit after tax of $US4.1 billion, after sales rose by 44 per cent to $US9.3 billion.

Shareholders will receive a fully franked interim dividend of $1.47 per share, which is 93 per cent higher than the previous fully franked interim payout.

Shares were up 1.29 per cent to $24.72.

Among major rivals, BHP was down 0.41 per cent to $48.40.

Rio Tinto was better by 0.50 per cent to $128.11, having after trade closed on Wednesday posting full-year underlying earnings of $US12.45 billion, better from $US10.37 billion 12 months ago.

Woodside Petroleum reported a net loss of almost $US4.03 billion ($A5.2 billion) for 2020 despite delivering a record full-year production of 100.3 million barrels of oil.

The company says the result was impacted by writedowns

Shares were down 2.85 per cent to $25.22.

Retailing and chemicals giant Wesfarmers reported a near 15 per cent increase in its half year profit with strong sales and earnings across its businesses.

The owner of Bunnings, the Kmart Group and Officeworks had net profit before tax of $1.3 billion.

Shareholders will receive a fully franked interim dividend of $0.88 per share, higher from the previous interim payout of 75 cents per share.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.61 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 77.53 US cents at Wednesday’s close.