SYDNEY, AAP – Shares were higher on the Australian market as heavyweights the Commonwealth Bank and CSL made important contributions to the indices.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was up by 29.6 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 6775 at 1200 AEDT on Wednesday.

The All Ordinaries was higher by 26.8 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 7013.4.

Healthcare was the top sector, up 1.37 per cent. CSL rose 1.49 per cent to $264.90.

The consumer sectors and property were also higher than one per cent.

In financials, the Commonwealth Bank was the only one of the big four banks higher. It rose 1.34 per cent to $85.91.

Energy was easily the biggest weight on the indices. It lost 1.09 per cent after oil prices plunged on concerns about coronavirus lockdowns in Europe.

US markets closed lower as investors worried about potential tax hikes to pay for President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 trillion relief bill, and the cost of infrastructure spending.

Those fears came from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s comments to a Senate hearing that the economy remains in crisis.

She also defended plans for tax increases to pay for the public investments.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 308.05 points, or 0.94 per cent, to 32,423.15, the S&P 500 lost 30.07 points, or 0.76 per cent, to 3,910.52 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 149.85 points, or 1.12 per cent, to 13,227.70.

In Australia, job ads posted on the internet jumped by seven per cent in February.

It is the 10th consecutive month that job ads, as compiled by the National Skills Commission, have risen.

On the ASX, Premier Investments, which owns retail chains Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Just Jeans and Portmans, beat expectations to post a soaring profit.

Net profit for the 27 weeks to the end of January, which included the hardest period for the retail sector of coronavirus pandemic, jumped 88.9 per cent to $188 million.

Business leaders defended not repaying $15.6 million in JobKeeper assistance. They said the money would be used to pay workers in the event of more lockdowns, and not be used for management bonuses or dividends.

Premier will pay an interim dividend of 34 cents, in line with the previous corresponding period.

Shares were up 2.67 per cent to $23.84.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has ordered Westpac’s New Zealand business to have two reports from a third-party about its risk governance and liquidity risk.

The central bank said Westpac New Zealand had ongoing compliance issues for years.

Westpac fell 1.14 per cent to $24.15.

ANZ and NAB were little changed.

Crown Resorts was also little changed after Victoria’s royal commission into the business began.

Inquiry chair, former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein QC, said he will investigate whether money laundering is still taking place at Crown’s Melbourne casino and whether the company has breached Victorian legislation and regulations, as well as contractual obligations.

His inquiry will also look at how the company deals with gambling addiction.

In mining, Rio Tinto was up 1.16 per cent to $109.02. BHP and Fortescue were little changed.

The Australian dollar was buying 76.09 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower from 76.92 US cents at Tuesday’s close.