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Australian Market Modestly Higher

The Australian stock market is rising on Wednesday despite the negative cues overnight from Wall Street, reflecting gains by banks and gold miners. However, gains are modest as investors look ahead to the release of Australia's inflation data and the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy decision later in the day.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 11.50 points or 0.19 percent to 6,032.00, after touching a high of 6,039.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 9.20 points or 0.15 percent to 6,156.00. Australian stocks gave up early gains to close lower on Tuesday.

The big four banks are notably higher. ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 2.2 percent to 2.8 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is advancing almost 2 percent.

Australia's financial services regulator APRA has eased restrictions regarding dividend payouts by banks and insurers, but urged them to moderate payments to sustainable levels.

Gold miners are also higher after safe-haven gold prices rose to another record high overnight. Evolution Mining is adding more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is advancing almost 1 percent.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is losing more than 1 percent, Rio Tinto is lower by almost 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is down 0.3 percent.

In the oil sector, Oil Search is lower by almost 1 percent, while Santos and Woodside Petroleum are down 0.5 percent each after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Downer EDI said it has won contracts worth A$324 million from companies such as BHP, Santos and Wesfarmers across the electricity, industrial and oil and gas sectors. However, the industrial services provider's shares are down 0.2 percent.

CIMIC Group said it is in advanced talks with an affiliate of investment firm Elliot Management regarding the sale of a 50 percent stake in its mining services business, Theiss. The engineering contractor's shares are rising more than 1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will release second-quarter numbers for consumer prices today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.7167, compared to $0.7132 on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Tuesday as traders kept an eye on developments in Washington after Republicans unveiled their version of a new coronavirus relief bill, which includes another $1,200 stimulus payment to Americans as well as more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it also slashes unemployment benefits and provides liability protections for businesses and doctors, which could lead to an impasse in negotiations with Democrats. A negative reaction to earnings news from Dow components 3M and McDonald's also contributed to the weakness on Wall Street.

The Dow slid 205.49 points or 0.8 percent to 26,379.28, the Nasdaq tumbled 134.18 points or 1.3 percent to 10,402.09 and the S&P 500 fell 20.97 points or 0.7 percent to 3,218.44.

The major European markets ended mixed on Tuesday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.4 percent, while the German DAX Index closed just below the unchanged line and the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil futures settled lower on Tuesday amid concerns about the outlook for near-term energy demand due to the surge in coronavirus cases and fears of fresh lockdown measures. WTI crude for September declined $0.56 or about 1.4 percent to $41.04 a barrel.

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