RTTNews - After opening higher on Wall Street cues, the Australian market on Wednesday drifted down into the red subsequently as participants pressed sales in banking, energy and materials stocks. However, with several front line stocks garnering support at lower levels, the market has rebounded and is currently trading in positive territory.

Besides energy and materials stocks, consumer staples, utilities and industrial stocks are seen edging higher.
The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which fell to 4,046.2 after an early surge to 4,067.2, is currently trading at 4,066.8, up 16.1 points or 0.4% over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 16 points or 0.4% at 4,064.3.

On Tuesday, the S&P/ASX200 index had closed up 0.4 points at 4050.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 4.1 points to 4048.3.

National Australia Bank Ltd plans to raise A$2.75 billion in new capital and use the proceeds to maintain its balance sheet, pursue growth opportunities and improve its position in the small to medium sized enterprises market. The sale of new NAB shares announced on Wednesday comes after the bank raised A$3 billion in a similar raising in November 2008.

NAB also said its cash earnings totaled about A$900 million in the third quarter of its financial year, reflecting a solid performance under difficult economic conditions. Its bad and doubtful debt charge was A$1.064 billion for the June quarter, reflecting individual name exposures and downgrades in credit quality across all its businesses. But the bank said its provisioning ratios remained strong and customer deposit flows were continuing.

Shares offered under the placement will be priced at a minimum of A$21.20 each, with the final price to be determined by a bookbuild. The National Australia Bank stock is in a trading halt today.

Shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation are down sharply in the red. ANZ Bank is down with a modest loss.

Among materials stocks, BHP Billiton is up nearly a percent. The company reported a solid production performance in 2008-09, despite significant demand contraction in a weak global economy. The company says it recorded annual production records in three commodities, and in several operating divisions. Fourth-quarter production increased for 12 commodities, including metallurgical coal, petroleum, copper and energy coal.

Rio Tinto is trading in the red with a small loss. Newcrest Mining is down by 1.5%. Lihir Gold and Bluescope Steel are trading weak, while Orica and Fortescue Metals are up in positive territory with notable gains.

In the energy sector, Santos is up nearly 2.5%, while Woodside Petroleum and Orignin Energy are trading modestly higher.
In another news, Woolworths' fourth quarter sales rose 5.4% to A$11.15 billion, the company announced today. Australian food and liquor sales for the year were A$32.8 billion, an increase of 9.6% over 2008. During the fourth quarter, sales from the Australian food and liquor division increased by 9.5%. The stock is currently trading 0.7% down.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases consumer price index data for the June quarter.

In the currency market, The Australian dollar opened higher on Wednesday and was quoting at US$0.8181/85 in early trading, up from Tuesday's close of US$0.8112/15. The Aussie is currently trading at 0.8143 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand, Korea and Singapore are trading higher, while the Japanese market is trading weak. Stock markets across the region had turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday. While Japan's benchmark Nikkei posted a 2.7% gain, China's Shanghai Composite index fell 1.6%.

On Wall Street, stocks ended on a firm note on Tuesday with a slew of promising earnings reports keeping the mood positive. Testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, the U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke stated that the U.S. economy is showing signs of stabilization and that the stimulus authorities pumped into the global economy late last year probably helped to avoid a collapse of the financial system. However, he has cautioned that the economy is still in a fragile state, with unemployment high and consumer spending shaky.

The Dow advanced 67.79 points or 0.8% to 8,915.94, the Nasdaq climbed 6.91 points or 0.4% to 1,916.20 and the S&P 500 rose 3.45 points or 0.4% to 954.58.

Major European markets all closed the day showing strong gains, with the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index finishing up by 1.3% and 1% respectively. U.K.'s FTSE 100 index saw a 0.9% surge.

Crude oil gained for the fifth session in a row and finished at its highest level in almost three weeks on Tuesday. Investors looked ahead to the government's inventory report on Wednesday. Light sweet crude for August delivery settled at US$64.72, up 74 cents on the session. The August contract closed at the end of the session.

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