RTTNews - The Australian stock market opened on a mixed note Wednesday with the overnight flat close on Wall Street rendering the mood somewhat cautious in early trading. Materials, utilities and consumer staples are trading higher while energy, financials and healthcare stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

After an initial surge to 3,832, the Australian benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index has slipped into the red and is currently trading at 3,809.40, down 7.90 points from its previous close. The All Ordinaries index is down by 6 points at 3,794.60.

On Tuesday, the Australian share market had closed more than 2% higher following a strong lead from overseas and gains by major resource stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 ended up 81.7 points or 2.19% at 3817.3, while the broader All Ordinaries closed up 79.0 points, or 2.12% at 3800.6.

Despite a sharp 61.6% drop in the firm's first half net profit, shares of agribusiness major AWB Ltd edged higher this morning. The stock is trading nearly 2% up.

Materials stock James Hardie Industries is trading 3.4% down as the firm's full-year operating profit fell 44% on a slump in US fibre cement sales. However, the company reported a net profit of A$178.33 million for the 12 months to March 31, as against a loss in the previous year.

Among other stocks in the materials space, BHP Billiton, New Crest, Orica and Rio Tinto are trading sharply higher.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum is trading firm, while Santos and Origin Energy are trading weak.

In the banking sector, ANZ Bank, National Bank of Australia, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac are trading in negative territory with modest losses.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at 0.7717 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is trading firm, while South Korea and New Zealand are trading modestly higher. Most of the markets in the Asia-Pacific region had finished sharply higher on Tuesday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index rose by 2.7%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 3.0%.

Major European markets turned in largely modest gains. The French CAC 40 Index closed up 0.9%, while the German DAX Index also rose, finishing up by 2.2%. Meanwhile, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index also saw some strength on the day, closing up by 0.8%.

On Wall Street, traders cut down long positions and took profits on Tuesday as data released by the U.S. Commerce Department showed a decline in housing starts in April to an annual rate of 458,000 units, compared to March's revised rate of 525,000 units, suggesting a strong reacceleration is still some way off. New restrictions placed on the credit card industry sent financial stocks tumbling down sharply.

After a choppy ride, the Dow ended lower by 29.23 points at 8,474.85 and the S&P 500 closed down 1.58 points at 908.13. The Nasdaq, however, fared slightly better and closed 2.18 points up at 1,734.54.

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