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Australian Market Trades Higher

The Australian stock market is trading modestly higher on Tuesday with investors picking up stocks amid cautious moves ahead of the central bank's interest rate decision.

Energy, healthcare, consumer staples and information technology stocks are trading firm. Mining and property trusts stocks are also mostly up in positive territory, while financial and industrial stocks are trading mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 21.7 points or 0.5 percent at 4,418.3. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,487.6, up 20.4 points or 0.5 percent from its previous close.

Among key bank stocks, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are down 0.3 to 0.6 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading 0.5 percent up. Bendigo & Adelaide Bank is trading modestly lower, while Bank of Queensland is down with a loss of 2.5 percent.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to cut cash rates by 25 basis points at its board meeting.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton is up 0.6 percent, Fortescue Metals is up marginally and Newcrest Mining is gaining about 0.3 percent. Rio Tinto is trading in negative territory with a loss of 0.5 percent.

Energy stock Woodside Petroleum is up more than 4 percent following the company sealing an A$2 billion deal to sell part of its stake in the proposed Browse LNG Development to Japan Australia LNG. Woodside said it had accepted an offer for a long-term sales and purchase agreement for about 1.5 million tonnes of LNG a year from the Browse development subject to completion of the equity offer.

Among other stocks in the energy space, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy are up 0.5 to 1.2 percent, while Caltex Australia is trading flat.

Seek, Lend Lease Group, Dexus Property Group, Treasury Wine Estates and Seven West Media are up 2 to 2.5 percent. Beach Energy, CSL, Duet Group, Onesteel, CSR, Graincorp and Metcash are also trading notably higher.

Shares of Aquarium Platinum are down nearly 6 percent. Whitehaven Coal is down nearly 2 percent, while Lynas Corporation, Panaust, Sydney Port and Alumina are trading lower by 1.2 to 1.6 percent.

Stockland Group shares are trading lower by about 0.6 percent. The company said it is on track to achieve its recent earnings guidance for the 2012 financial year. Under its current accounting methods, the company expects to achieve earnings per security of 30.5 cents for the full year.

On the economic front, Australia's manufacturing activity contracted sharply in April. The Australian Industry Group reported Tuesday that its Performance of Manufacturing Index declined 5.6 points to 43.9.

"The steep fall in manufacturing activity in April rings true and is of serious concern," said AIG Chief Executive Ennes Willox. "Manufacturers continue to be adversely affected by the strong dollar, comparatively high unit labor costs and rising energy prices."

AIG said the biggest declines were seen in the basic metals, textiles and wood products, and furniture sub-sectors. The employment index fell into contraction at 46.1 while production also contracted, with a reading of 43.9.

On Wall Street, stocks ended modestly lower on Monday amid worries about the U.S. economy and concerns about the debt crisis in Europe. While the Dow ended down 15 points at 13,214, the Nasdaq dipped 23 points to 3,046 and the S&P 500 settled lower by about 5.5 points at 1,398.

Major European markets mostly ended notably lower on Monday amid worries about the eurozone economy.

U.S. crude oil futures snapped a four-day gain on Monday to settle a shade lower, as as the dollar gained strength and economic data from the Europe raised concerns about economic growth in the region. Crude for June delivery dropped $0.06 or 0.1 percent to close at $104.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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