Australian Market Higher, At 14-month High

The Australian stock market is higher on Wednesday at fresh 14-month highs, extending the gains of the previous two sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 above the 7,100 mark, on rising commodity prices and strong financial earnings as well as the dovish comments from RBA's interest rate decision yesterday. The cues overnight from Wall Street were mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 47.70 points or 0.68 percent to 7,115.60, after touching a new 14-month high of 7,120.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 46.50 points or 0.64 percent to 7,370.00. Australian stocks ended modestly higher on Tuesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are edging up 0.4 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is flat.

In the tech space, Appen is losing more than 3 percent, WiseTech Global is down more than 2 percent and Afterpay is declining almost 3 percent.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking is losing almost 2 percent, while National Australia Bank is up almost 1 percent, Westpac is edging up 0.2 percent and Commonwealth Bank is adding more than 2 percent.

ANZ reported that its first-half cash profits jumped 28 percent to $2.99 billion from last year.Tthe Big Four lender will also pay shareholders an interim dividend of 70 cents per share.

Westpac has acknowledged the ASICs allegations that it engaged in insider trading and unconscionable conduct, breaching its financial services licence, during AustralianSuper and IFM's purchase of NSW energy company Ausgrid five years ago.

Gold miners are lower after the gold prices tumbled. Evolution Mining, Resolute Mining and Northern Star Resources are losing almost 2 percent each, while Newcrest Mining is declining more than 1 percent.

Oil stocks were higher after crude oil prices climbed. Oil Search, Santos and Woodside Petroleum are gaining more than 1 percent each.

In other news, shares in Nearmap are soaring more than 15 percent after the aerial mapping firm upgraded one of its key financial metrics - annual contract value - for the 2021 financial year.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in April, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics showed on Wednesday, with a services PMI score of 58.8. That's up from 55.5 in March and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that the composite index improved to 58.9 from 55.5 in the previous month.

Separately, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Wednesday that the construction sector in Australia continued to expand in April, albeit at a slower pace, with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Construction Index score of 59.1. That's down from the record-high 61.8 in March, although it remains well above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The activity index jumped 5.1 points to a record high of 62.8 points.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.773 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly lower during trading on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq showing a particularly steep drop amid weakness among technology stocks. However, the narrower Dow managed to buck the downtrend as the blue chip index inched higher over the course of the session.

After plunging nearly 350 points in morning trading, the Dow ended the day up 19.80 points or 0.1 percent at 34,133.03. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq tumbled 261.62 points or 1.9 percent to 13,633.50 and the S&P 500 slid 28.00 points or 0.7 percent to 4,164.66.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index plunged 2.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid 0.9 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell 0.7 percent.

Crude oil prices moved sharply higher Tuesday, extending gains from previous session amid continued optimism about increased demand for fuel. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June ended higher by $1.20 or 1.9 percent at $65.69 a barrel.

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