The Australian share market has finished in the green for the first time since last Thursday, ahead of key US inflation data due to be released overnight.

After being down by as many as 59.3 points in morning trading, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index turned things around in the afternoon to close up 13.5 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 7,064.7.

The broader All Ordinaries rose 19.2 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 7,304.4.

Traders are nervously waiting for the release of monthly US inflation data late on Wednesday, Australia time, which may be a key factor in how quickly the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates.

“I think clearly the market is looking towards that tonight, and I think if there’s any sort of sign that inflation is beat, or it’s a slightly softer reading, the market is probably going to take that as a positive,” said SG Hiscock Australian portfolio manager Hamish Tadgell.

“Expect to see some of the growth sectors that have been sold off strongly potentially have a bit of a bounce.”

Central banks around the world are moving to raise ultra-low interest rates enacted as a pandemic stimulus measure because of raging inflation, but there are questions about how quickly they’ll need to act.

The sell-off of the last few days has been driven in part by traders sceptical that the Fed will be able to stick with monthly rate hikes of 0.5 percentage points forecast last week by chairman Jerome Powell.

They are betting the central bank will instead be forced to take more aggressive action.

Sectors were mixed on Wednesday, with health care gaining the most ground, 1.7 per cent, as sector heavyweight CSL rose 2.1 per cent to a 13-week high of $276.22.

Mr Tadgell said the biotech company has been a late COVID reopening trade, as the collection of blood plasma needed to create lifesaving medicine is now back at pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s also the fact that markets have been looking for more defensive areas, and (consumer) staples have done well, packaging have done well,” he said.

“The valuations on some of these things are starting to get stretched, and CSL’s certainly been a laggard.”

The banking sector was the worst performer, falling 1.1 per cent, with NAB dropping 3.9 per cent to $30.53 as it went ex-dividend.

ANZ fell 1.5 per cent to $25.40, Westpac dropped 1.6 per cent to $24.25 and CBA was down 0.2 per cent to $101.51.

The heavyweight mining sector bounced back, with BHP rising 1.4 per cent to $45.66, Rio Tinto climbing 2.6 per cent to $105.64 and Fortescue Metals up 2.3 per cent to $19.55.

Takeover target Link Group, which provides administrative services to financial companies, fell 15.1 per cent to $4.22 and was briefly placed in a trading halt.

Link told the ASX it had no explanation for the drop in its share price and the increase in trading volume.

On Tuesday, Link released documents related to its pending acquisition, for $5.50 a share, by Canada-based Dye & Durham Corporation.

CSR rose 0.5 per cent to $5.72 after the building products company announced its full-year net profit rose 20 per cent to $193 million.

“The strong pipeline of detached housing projects is expected to continue in the year ahead as completion times lengthen with supply chain and trade capacity impacting the broader industry,” CSR said.

Activity in apartments and the non-residential markets has improved after an extended slowdown in the last few years.

Lifestyle Communities climbed 15.1 per cent to a two-week high of $13.96 after a broker upgrade.

On Tuesday, the property developer for Australians over 50 forecast it would deliver between 390 and 405 new home settlements this financial year.

Shares in the ASX itself rose 0.8 per cent to $82.13 after the bourse confirmed its blockchain-based replacement to the ageing CHESS clearing and settlement system wouldn’t go live in April 2023, as scheduled.

A new date hasn’t been decided on.

Graincorp fell 1.0 per cent to $10.46 despite announcing a record half-year result, as the war in Ukraine boosted demand for Australian commodities.

The company made $246 million in profit in the six months to March 31, nearly five times the amount it made a year ago.

The Australian dollar was buying 69.71 US cents, from 69.57 US cents when the market closed on Tuesday.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished up 13.5 points, or 0.19 per cent, to close at 7,064.7 on Wednesday.

* The All Ordinaries index rose 19.2 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 7,304.4.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 69.71 US cents, from 69.57 US cents when the ASX closed on Tuesday

* 90.61 Japanese yen, from 89.67 yen

* 66.04 Euro cents, from 65.88 cents

* 56.50 British pence, from 56.43 pence

* 110.36 NZ cents, from 109.99 NZ cents.


Derek Rose
(Australian Associated Press)