Australia Markets close in 2 hrs 34 mins

Aust stocks edge higher

The Australian share market has edged higher, but investors are still waiting for a catalyst to drive it through the 6,000 points mark.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said the local market was dangling, unable to breach the psychological 6,000 points barrier.

He said a lack of major economic or corporate news and a disappointing report on Chinese manufacturing activity had held back the market on Tuesday.

"For the next five to 10 days we're probably going to bumble along until the April 7 RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) meeting on interest rates," Mr Lucas said.

The preliminary reading for HSBC's purchasing managers index, released on Tuesday, showed that China's manufacturing activity contracted in March at its fastest rate in almost a year.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton lifted 22 cents to $31.22, and Rio Tinto lost 84 cents to $57.37.

Fortescue Metals firmed three cents to $2.01. Fortescue may have to sell part of its iron ore mines or Pilbara infrastructure as it looks to shore up its debt after abandoning a $US2.5 billion refinancing.

Coal miner New Hope was seven cents richer at $2.55 as the company's chief executive rejected suggestions that the coal industry's struggles are permanent and said he wants to make acquisitions this year.

Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum reversed 12 cents to $35.41.

Woodside is cutting 300 jobs and freezing pay as it slashes expenditure following a plunge in the oil price.

Among the major banks, Commonwealth Bank descended 39 cents to $95.09, Westpac put on one cent at $39.57, National Australia Bank shed 23 cents at $38.95, and ANZ found nine cents at $36.89.

Among other stocks, Qantas was five cents lower at $2.99. The airline said it plans to highlight the customer benefits of an expanded alliance with China Eastern after the competition watchdog said it could lead to higher airfares.

TPG Telecom jumped 31 cents to $9.14 after it lifted its earnings guidance and posted an 18 per cent jump in interim net profit.

Kathmandu plunged 19.5 cents, or 12.42 per cent, to $1.375. The outdoor clothing retailer is putting the brakes on its store expansion in Australia after suffering a half year loss.


* On Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 13 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 5,969.1 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 13.5 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,934.5 points.

* The June share price index futures contract was up 21 points at 5,978 points, with 22,229 contracts traded.

* The price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,187.20 per fine ounce, up $US5.10 from $US1,182.10 on Monday.

* National turnover was 1.8 billion securities worth $4.5 billion.