• SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s share market climbed in response to lower-than-expected inflation figures, which analysts expect will reduce the chance of a rate rise.The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 33.2 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 7067 at 1200 AEST on Wednesday.

    The All Ordinaries was better by 29.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 7324.8 points.

    The consumer price index caused the indices to rise to their highest levels in the first two hours of trade.

    Inflation rose 0.6 per cent in the March quarter, compared with predictions for a 0.9 per cent rise. The annual rate edged up to 1.1 per cent.

    CommSec chief economist Craig James said the result meant the Reserve Bank would keep the cash rate at record low levels until 2024.

    Investors liked the promise of an extended period of cheap borrowing: the ASX200 was at 7051.6 points when the inflation data was published, and 17 minutes later was at a session-high 7077.5.

    The Australian dollar slipped by about 30 basis points following the inflation data.

    On the ASX, property shares were best, higher by 1.93 per cent.

    There were also gains of more than one per cent for financials and energy.

    The worst sector was materials, down 0.89 per cent, despite iron ore rising to an 11-year high of $US193.65 per tonne.

    In the US, tech giants Alphabet, the owner of Google, and Microsoft posted their earnings after trading closed.

    Alphabet reported record profit for the second consecutive quarter and a $US50 billion share buyback but warned ad sales may slow as people resume in-person activities.

    Microsoft reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $US14.8 billion, up 38 per cent from the same period last year.

    Earlier, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.01 per cent, but the S&P 500 lost 0.02 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.34 per cent.

    Among ASX companies, Coles has reported its first drop in quarterly sales in more than a decade as shopping levels return to normal after panic buying ahead of coronavirus lockdowns.

    The company reported a 5.1 per cent drop in third-quarter sales to $8.76 billion.

    Shares were up 1.44 per cent to $15.84.

    Westpac said it would pay $30 million to settle a class action with life insurance customers.

    Lawyers in 2017 began proceedings in the Federal Court over the premiums paid to Westpac Life Insurance Services from 2011 to 2017.

    The court must still approve the settlement.

    Shares were up 1.08 per cent to $25.26.

    NAB was best of the big four banks, rising 1.33 per cent to $26.96.

    In mining, Rio Tinto had the biggest losses of the majors. Rio shed 1.3 per cent to $122.03.

    Surface chemicals group AnteoTech surged by 10.84 per cent to 46 cents after it said investors had committed to raise $12 million in a share sale.

    The company said a further $4 million was expected to be raised from a share sale for retail investors.

    The funds will help develop products including a COVID-19 testing kit.

    It was buying 77.36 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower from 77.96 US cents at Tuesday’s close.