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Australian Market Advances

The Australian stock market is advancing on Wednesday despite the mixed cues overnight from Wall Street ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's congressional testimony later in the day. Most of the sectors are higher, with tech stocks and banks among the major gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 37.70 points or 0.57 percent to 6,703.40, after touching a high of 6,679.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 35.80 points or 0.54 percent to 6,701.50. Australian stocks finished marginally lower on Tuesday.

Among tech stocks, WiseTech Global is higher by more than 3 percent and Afterpay Touch is gaining more than 2 percent.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank - are higher in a range of 0.8 percent to 1.0 percent.

In the oil sector, Santos and Oil Search are rising 0.7 percent each, while Woodside Petroleum is up 0.5 percent following a modest increase in crude oil prices.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices rose overnight. Newcrest Mining is rising 0.5 percent and Evolution Mining is adding 0.3 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is edging down 0.1 percent and Rio Tinto is declining 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is rising 0.2 percent.

Retail Food Group confirmed it is in advanced talks with a Hong Kong-owned investment firm Soliton Capital Partners over a deal to reduce its debt by A$160 million. Shares of the troubled Gloria Jeans and Donut King franchisor are losing almost 7 percent.

In economic news, Australia will see July results for the consumer confidence index from Westpac today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S dollar on Wednesday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6927, compared to $0.6952 on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Tuesday after coming under pressure early in the session. A notable drop by 3M weighed on the Dow after RBC Capital Markets downgraded its rating on the company's stock to Sector Perform from Outperform. Overall trading activity was subdued, as traders looked ahead to Powell's testimony, hoping for signs of a near-term interest rate cut.

The Nasdaq climbed 43.35 points or 0.5 percent to 8,141.73 and the S&P 500 inched up 3.68 points or 0.1 percent to 2,979.63, while the Dow ended the session down 22.65 points or 0.1 percent at 26,783.49.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index fell by 0.9 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slipped by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Tuesday, with traders making cautious moves, weighing crude demand and supply prospects ahead of weekly inventory data. WTI crude for August ended up $0.17 or 0.3 percent at $57.83 a barrel.

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