Australian markets

The Australian share market closed higher for a sixth consecutive trading day with activity subdued after the Reserve Bank (RBA) left interest rates unchanged. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 13.3 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 4,900.1 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 13.9 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 4,998.6 points. On the ASX 24, the June share price index futures contract was 14 points higher at 4,923 points, with nearly 28,000 contracts traded. The central bank kept the cash rate unchanged at 4.75 per cent on Tuesday, saying inflation was consistent with its medium-term objective of monetary policy.

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The major miners pulled up the local bourse with the materials sector about one per cent up overall. BHP Billiton performed strongly, lifting 67 cents, or 1.43 per cent, to close at $47.55 while fellow mining giant Rio Tinto was 66 cents firmer at $86.16. Shares in uranium miner Extract Resources shot up 25 cents, or 3.13 per cent, to $8.23 after it released positive news about the viability of its main asset, the Husab project in Namibia. Fellow uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd was one of the best performers on the ASX100, improving 11 cents, or 2.9 per cent, to close at $3.90. Copper miner Equinox Minerals closed up 1.09 per cent to $7.43, after postponing a shareholder meeting to consider the takeover of Lundin Mining Corporation, after Chinese state owned Minmetals Resources Ltd announced its intention to make an offer for Equinox.

The best performer on the ASX100 was QBE Insurance, which reiterated earlier guidance during its annual general meeting and said it expected at least to maintain its 2010 dividend. It closed up 99 cents, or 5.5 per cent, at $19. The second-best best performer was rare earths miner Lynas, up 12 cents, or five per cent, to $2.52. AMP Ltd's shares were up four cents at $5.64 after its funds management arm raised an initial 241 million euros and secured 12 institutional investors for a new wholesale infrastructure debt fund. The banks were slightly up except for the Commonwealth Bank, which closed down 19 cents at $52.25. Westpac was up one cent at $24.33, ANZ climbed eight cents at $23.94 while National Australia Bank gained one cent at $26.06. National turnover was 3.36 billion shares worth $5.6 billion, with 573 stocks up, 552 down and 420 unchanged.

The Australian dollar edged down from its post-float high in Asian trading Tuesday, weighed down by the country's first monthly trade deficit since March 2010. An afternoon statement from the country's central bank did little to move currency markets, with the Reserve Bank of Australia holding rates steady at 4.75% and reiterating similar comments to those of recent months. After reaching its latest post-float high in Monday morning action at $1.0418, the currency has slipped steadily in the past 24 hours. The declines were set off in Asian trade after Australia posted a seasonally adjusted trade deficit of A$205 million in February, swinging from a surplus of A$1.43 billion in January. Economists had expected a surplus of A$1.2 billion. Weighing on the data, exports of coal remained choked by severe floods in Queensland and the soaring Australian dollar drove import demand higher. The Australian dollar was changing hands at $1.0331, down from $1.0386 late Monday. Against the yen, the unit traded at 87.15, down from 87.43.

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