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Gains put ASX on track for standout week

 

The Australian share market has opened marginally higher after a soaring previous session where the index reached its highest level since late June.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 0.1 per cent to 5,799.5 points at 1030 AEDT on Friday, with smalls gains from major banks and miners outweighing falls from energy stocks.

CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said the market was shrugging off moves out of the US overnight where Wall Street stock indexes fell as the third-quarter earnings season kicked off with a whimper.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.14 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 0.17 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.18 per cent.

He said if the market continues to climb on Friday, after closing 0.39 per cent higher on Thursday, it will be the best week since late March.

"We have been going from strength to strength it seems and we are building up momentum," Mr Daghlian said

"Historically, October has tended to be a good month for markets partly because of dividends coming into equities - we will have to wait and see."

Mr Daghlian said the banks were the best performers, with three out of the four major lenders trading higher.

Commonwealth Bank was 0.21 per cent lower at $76.25 after announcing it will change how branch tellers earn bonuses by removing financial targets such as product sales.

Mining stocks were also stronger despite a fall in iron ore prices overnight, with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto both up 0.5 per cent and 0.8 per cent respectively.

But energy shares were lower, following a slip in oil prices after the US Energy Department reported a larger-than-expected decline in US inventories and a fall-off in weekly production.

Woodside, Santos and Oil Search were down between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent.

NIB Holdings grew one per cent to $6.07 while Medibank Private rose 2.1 per cent to $3.11 after the federal government announced plans to release a raft of proposed health insurance changes, promising Australians cheaper premiums and easier access to mental healthcare.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was flat against its US counterpart, as the greenback drifted after the Federal Reserve showed a more guarded view towards inflation.

The local currency was worth 78.25 US cents, up just slightly from 78.21 US cents on Thursday.

ON THE ASX:

* At 1030 AEST the benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up five points, or 0.09 per cent, at 5,799.5 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was 5.4 points, or 0.09 per cent, higher at 5,869.5 points.

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 12 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 5,780 points.

* National turnover was 617.9 million securities traded worth $564.5 million.