RTTNews - Weak opens were expected for the New Zealand and Australia stock markets on Thursday, following more losses overnight on Wall Street. U.S. stocks were headed toward broad-based losses

New Zealand's sharemarket rose slightly on Wednesday in light trading, as investors awaited word Thursday on an interest rate decision from the central bank.

The benchmark NZX-50 index rose 5.57 points or 0.2 percent to 2,827.9.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange reported turnover volume of 45.9 million shares valued at NZ$82.7.

The Reserve Bank of NZ announces prior to Thursday's market open whether the country's official cash interest rate will change from its current level of 2.5 percent.

Among the session's most actively traded stocks, Auckland International Airport was unchanged, AMP New Zealand was down a penny, Fletcher Building rose NZ$0.07, Fisher & Paykel Appliances was down .03, F & P Healthcare was down .05, Freightways was unchanged, Guinness Peat was unchanged, Kiwi Income Properties was down a penny, Nuplex was unchanged, NZ Farming Systems rose one cent, SkyCity Entertainment was down a penny and Telecom Corp of NZ was up a penny.

Across the Tasman, Australia's market posted a strong gain. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 89.5 points or 2.3 percent to 4,024.4 while the broader All Ordinaries index advanced 77 points or 2.1 percent to 4,016.3.

Market turnover volume was 2.16 billion shares valued at A$5.09 billion.

There were 597 stocks closing higher, 461 lower and 342 unchanged.

Traders saw a 12.7 percent rise in the Westpac/Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index, the largest increase in 22 years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reported a 0.9 percent rise in housing finance commitments.

Among the stocks and sectors of interest, the major banks were stronger. Australia and NZ advanced A$0.41, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was up .97, National Australia gained .42 and Westpac added .44.

The big mining companies were also higher, with BHP Billiton up $1.20, Rio Tinto was up $2.42, Fortescue Metals was up .48 or more than 15 percent and Panoramic Resources advanced .29 or nearly 13 percent. PanAust was unchanged on heavy volume of 32 million shares. OZ Minerals was down two cents, with shareholders expecting to vote Thursday on a proposal from China Minmetals to acquire most of the company's assets.

Among the gold miners, Newcrest Mining was up .15, Newmont was down .19 and Lihir Gold gained .04.

The major retailers were stronger, with Woolworths up .29, Wesfarmers gained .34, Harvey Norman was up a dime, JB Hi-Fi rose .73 or 5.15 percent and David Jones gained .22 or 5.64 percent.

For the major telecoms, Telstra added .04 and Singapore Telecom was down .04.

In overseas trading, U.S. markets were headed lower in a broad-based sell-off. About a half-hour before the closing bell on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 91.30 points or 1.04 percent at 8,671.76, the Nasdaq Composite index was lower by 20.79 points or 1.12 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 10.33 points or 1.10 percent at 932.02.

All of the major markets in the Asia/Pacific region closed higher on Wednesday.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average gained 204.67 points or 2.09 points to 9,991.49.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index rose 727.17 points or 4.03 percent to 18,785.66.

China's Shanghai Composite index was up 28.36 points or 1.02 percent to 2,816.25.

The BSE 30 index in India rose 339.81 points or 2.25 percent to 15,466.81.

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Composite index advanced 15.52 points or 0.74 percent to 2,108.81.

South Korea's KOSPI/Seoul composite index was up 43.04 points or 3.14 percent to 1,414.88.

The Taiwan Weighted Index rose 47.88 points or 0.75 percent to 6,462.27.

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