Australian markets

The Australian share market clawed back into the black to break through the key 5,000-point barrier for the first time in more than six weeks. The local bourse was down earlier in a directionless session where the materials, consumer staples and healthcare sectors led modest gains. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 13.1 points, or 0.27 per cent, at 4,913.2 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 13.1 points, or 0.26 per cent, to breach the 5,000-point barrier at 5,011.7. It was the All Ordinaries strongest close since February 18. On the ASX 24, the June share price index futures contract was 16 points higher at 4,942 points with 31,267 contracts traded. Preliminary market turnover was 3.16 billion shares worth $6.01 billion, with 616 stocks up, 541 down and 388 unchanged.

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Mining giant BHP Billiton closed at a near three year high at $47.95, up 40 cents, while Rio Tinto gave up six cents to $86.10. Woolworths led gains in among consumer staples, putting on 28 cents to $27.07. Beverages firm Foster's Group was down seven cents at $5.69 after flagging a possible $39.5 million tax bill related to its former brewing business in India, now owned by SABMiller. Among healthcare stocks, CSL appreciated 49 cents to $36.54. Energy shares were mixed following a dip in the oil price overnight, with Woodside down 14 cents at $47.00 while Origin gained 19 cents to $16.38.

Australia's largest gold miner Newcrest was up $1.17 at $41.71 after spot gold reached a record $1,456 per fine ounce overnight. The spot gold price in Sydney was $1,454.30 per fine ounce, up $17.78 on Tuesday's local close of $1,436.52 per fine ounce. On Wednesday, Sundance Resources put a $US4.6 billion development cost on its Mbalam iron ore project in central West Africa. Sundance Resources shares were steady at 48.5 cents. The Takeovers Panel has made a declaration of unacceptable circumstances regarding Regent Pacific Group's withdrawal of its takeover offer for BC Iron. Shares in the junior iron ore miner finished up seven cents at $2.63.

The Australian dollar pushed higher in Asia Wednesday, though in quiet trade with little to provide fresh direction ahead of all-important domestic jobs numbers due Thursday. The local currency dipped late in the session from its intraday high, but traders said good demand for local bonds from central banks added support. Ahead of the European Central Bank and Bank of England's monthly policy decisions Thursday, local jobs numbers will be key. Economists expect some 24,000 jobs were added in March with the unemployment rate around 5.0%. The Australian dollar was changing hands at $1.0355, up from $1.0331 late Tuesday. Against the yen, it traded at 88.305, down from 87.15.

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