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Australian Market Trading Modestly Higher

The Australian market is up marginally on Friday with stocks swinging between gains and losses amid cautious trades. After opening flat despite a positive lead from Wall Street, the market moved up a bit subsequently but came off its high soon with investors turning cautious ahead of key earnings reports.

Information technology stocks are trading firm and healthcare stocks are weak, while most of the other sectors are exhibiting a mixed trend.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index, which advanced to around 4,386, is currently trading at 4,380, up 4.8 points or 0.1 percent from its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 5 points or 0.1 percent at 4,450.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are up with modest gains, while National Australia Bank and Westpac are trading flat. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is up marginally, while Bank of Queensland is gaining about 0.7 percent.

Macquarie Group announced that its full year profit declined 24 percent as investment activity dropped significantly due to global economic uncertainty. Macquarie's net profit for the 12 months to March 31 was A$730 million, down from A$956 million. Net operating income for the year declined 9 percent to A$6.96 billion fro last year. Macquarie Group shares are currently trading 2 percent higher from Thursday's closing price.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals are trading modestly higher and Newcrest Mining is up 1.7 percent, while Rio Tinto is trading flat.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are up marginally. Oil Search is down 1.5 percent, Origin Energy is trading lower by 0.6 percent and Caltex Australia is down with a loss of 0.5 percent.

Resmed Inc shares are up more than 5.5 percent after the company reported an 11 percent increase in net profit for the quarter ended March 31, 2012.

Seven West Media is up 2.8 percent. Ramsay Healthcare, Regis Resources, Atlas Iron and Panaust are all trading higher by 2 to 2.5 percent. Perseus Mining, Ansell and Alumina are also up with strong gains.

JB Hi-Fi Limited shares are down nearly 5 percent following the company lowering its earnings forecast. The company expects to post a net profit of A$100 million to A$105 million for the year to June 30, down from A$109.7 million in the previous financial year.

Harvey Norman Holdings is trading lower by over 3 percent. CSL, Myer Holdings, Qantas Airways, Paladin Energy and Onesteel are all down 1 to 2.5 percent.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan are trading higher, while Malaysia is trading weak. Markets across the region closed modestly higher on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher on Thursday, with traders reacting to positively to upbeat housing data.

The major averages pulled back off their best levels going into the close but still ended the day firmly positive. The Dow rose 113.9 points or 0.9 percent to 13,204.6, the Nasdaq climbed 21 points or 0.7 percent to 3,050.6 and the S&P 500 advanced by 9.3 points or 0.7 percent to 1,340.

Major European markets ended mixed on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 index edged down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index both ended the day up by 0.5 percent.

U.S. crude oil futures settled at a one-week high on Thursday, with strong equity markets and a weak dollar contributing to the surge. Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for June delivery, gained $0.43 or 0.4 percent to close at $104.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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