SYDNEY, AAP – Australian shares were losing their bright start at the end of the week and investors were struggling to hold on to gains.

The market climbed early on Friday after a good US lead but had since eased to be up by only a quarter of a per cent at 1215 AEDT.

Technology and materials shares were proving best. Miners BHP and Fortescue were each up by more than one per cent.

There were losses for shares in consumer staples, utilities and property.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 18 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 7329.7.

The All Ordinaries was up 20.6 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 7640.8.

Wall Street investors took comfort in better signs for the US economy.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell close to a 19-month low. A separate report showed producer prices eased in September.

The US Federal Reserve is monitoring employment and inflation to help decide when to ease economic stimulus.

Experts claim this move could come next month, after minutes were published of the central bank’s September meeting.

Meanwhile US President Joe Biden has signed legislation temporarily raising the government’s borrowing limit to $US28.9 trillion ($A39 trillion), pushing the deadline for debt default to December.

US Treasury had estimated it would run out of money to pay the nation’s bills on October 18.

In ASX company news, shares in insurer IAG fell after corporate regulator ASIC started court action.

IAG in 2019 found it did not give full discounts to customers in earlier years and began refunding them.

ASIC is seeking fines and said IAG has broken laws.

Shares were down 3.34 per cent to $4.91.

Qantas is selling land at its Sydney site for $802 million to reduce debt and help its recovery.

The largely undeveloped 13.8 hectares was sold to LOGOS Property Group.

Shares were up more than two per cent to $5.69.

Mining giant Rio Tinto did not fare as well as its iron ore peers after lowering forecasts for iron ore shipments.

The company in its third quarter production report said there had been delays to new mines in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Shares were down 0.69 per cent to $99.81.

There was little movement among the big banks. ANZ was best and higher by 0.32 per cent to $27.67.

The Australian dollar was buying 74.14 US cents at 1215 AEDT, higher from 73.86 US cents at Thursday’s close.