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Aust shares edge higher in muted trade

Christian Edwards
AAP

The Australian share market closed higher on a day of light trading volumes ahead of a decision on interest rates by the US Federal Reserve.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 0.2 per cent to 5,950.3 points, with the strongest gains made in the financial, energy and materials sectors.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said investors were cautious ahead of the US Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting, at which interest rates are expected to be lifted.

"The local share market is really just treading water today ahead of that FOMC meeting," Ms Lee said.

"All eyes are going to be the dot plots and whether that moves from three to four rate hikes for 2018."

Ms Lee said the big four Australian banks were seeing technical support at their current levels, after being under pressure for the last few weeks.

National Australia Bank led the gains, up one per cent, ANZ gained 0.9 per cent, Commonwealth Bank added 0.8 per cent and Westpac was 0.6 per cent higher.

"The banks here are a trading opportunity, they will go from over-bought to over-sold territory and at the moment there's probably been a little too much pessimism factored, in given it's the start of the royal commission and some of those nasty, brand-damaging stories coming out," Ms Lee said.

After a rise in oil prices on fresh geo-political concerns in the Middle East, Origin Energy rose by 1.3 per cent, Santos added 1.2 per cent and Oil Search was 1.1 per cent higher.

BHP Billiton gained 0.9 per cent, Fortescue Metals was up 1.9 per cent, while Rio Tinto was steady after announcing on Tuesday the sale of two Queensland coal projects to Glencore for $1.7 billion.

Crown Resorts dropped 0.9 per cent after James Packer's shock resignation from its board.

Myer shares ended the day 3.5 per cent weaker after a rollercoaster session following its $476 million half year loss and executive chairman Gary Hounsell's claim the retailer's focus is back to its traditional strengths of product, price and customer service.

Shares in Nufarm gained 5.5 per cent after the agricultural chemicals supplier beat half-year earnings expectations and forecast full year earnings growth.

The Australian dollar edged lower against a US dollar that is finding strength ahead of the US Fed rate decision.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 13.9 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,950.3 points

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 12.3 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 6,053.1 points

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 11 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 5,934.0 points

* Market turnover was 3.5 billion shares traded worth $5.2 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 76.96 US cents, from 77.06 US cents on Tuesday

* 81.90 Japanese yen, from 81.91 yen

* 62.77 euro cents, from 62.47 euro cents

* 54.94 British pence, from 55.94 pence

* 107.21 NZ cents, from 106.69 NZ cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,312.03 per fine ounce, from $US1,315.09 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.0178pct, from 1.9894pct, on Tuesday

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.6572pct, from 2.657pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.285 (implying a yield of 2.715pct), unchanged from Tuesday

* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.825 (2.175pct), from 97.875 (2.125pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)