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Australian Market Edges Higher After Weak Start

After a weak start, the Australian stock market is edging higher on Tuesday with investors indulging in some selective buying in consumer staples, financial, healthcare and property trust stocks.

The mood, however, remains quite cautious following a weak lead from the U.S. and European markets, where stocks ended lower overnight amid lingering worries about the global economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which declined to 4,337.7 in early trades, is currently trading at 4,356, up 3.6 points from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 1.4 points at 4,428.9, off an early low of 4,415.5.

Wesfarmers Limited shares are up nearly 2 percent. The company said Coles sales rose almost five percent to A$7.8 billion in the third quarter. However, tough trading conditions led to a 4.4 percent fall in Target sales to A$692 million from the year-ago period.

Sonic Healthcare, Computershare, Stockland, Westfield Retail Trust, Seek, Suncorp Group, Tatts Group, Brambles, Downer EDI and Goodman Group are trading higher by 1 to 1.6 percent.

Paladin Energy shares are down as much as 6.8 percent.

Newcrest Mining is down with a loss of around 3.5 percent following the company cutting its forecasts for gold and copper production for 2012 after carrying out a major review of its operations.

Newcrest said gold production for the 2012 financial year would be reduced to 2.25-2.35 million ounces from 2.43-2.55 million ounces. It also lowered its forecast for copper production to 70,000-75,000 tonnes from 75,000-80,000 tonnes.

Beach Energy is down by over 2 percent. Onesteel, Fortescue Metals, Iluka Resources, Lynas Corporation, Aquarius Platinum and Orica are also trading notably lower.

In economic news, Australia is scheduled to release consumer price index data for the first quarter of 2012.

Inflation is expected to rise 2.2 percent on year after rising 3.1 percent in the previous three months. On quarter, CPI is called higher by 0.7 percent following the flat reading in Q4.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are trading notably lower. Malaysia, Hong Kong and New Zealand are down marginally, while Singapore is bucking the trend and trading higher. Markets across the region ended mostly lower on Monday.

On Wall Street, stocks saw considerable weakness on Monday, hurt by disappointing economic data from overseas, including a report from HSBC Holdings and Markit Economics showing a continued contraction in Chinese manufacturing activity in the month of April.

However, the major averages ended the session well off their lowest levels of the day. The Dow closed down 102.1 points or 0.8 percent at 12,927.2, the Nasdaq drifted down 30 points or 1 percent to 2,970.5 and the S&P 500 ended lower by 11.6 points or 0.8 percent at 1,366.9.

Major European markets too ended weak on Monday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index lost 1.9 percent, the French CAC 40 index and the German DAX index plummeted by 2.8 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil futures settled lower Monday, as investors weighed some significant developments in France and the Netherlands that once again rekindled concerns over the eurozone sovereign debt and oil demand.

Crude for June delivery dropped $0.77 or 0.7 percent to close at $103.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTT Staff Writer

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