Australian shares continue streak as US inflation eases

The local share market has risen for a fourth straight day as US inflation moderated ahead of the Federal Reserve's last meeting of the year

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Wednesday finished up 22.5 points, or 0.31 per cent, to a fresh three-month high of 7,257.8, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 22.7 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7,469.1.

Overnight a US consumer price index report showed that annual inflation slowed to 3.1 per cent in November, down from 3.2 per cent a month before. 

"It was an acceptable print by almost all measures," said analyst Kyle Rodda, who noted that there was only a slightly higher rate of month-over-month core inflation to dampen the mood.

Early on Thursday, the Fed is set to announce its latest decision on interest rates, with another hold almost universally expected. But the central bank's economic forecasts and outlook will certainly have the potential to move markets. 

Domestically, reports based on merchant transactions from ANZ and NAB suggested that consumer spending would be soft over the crucial holiday period.

"While a large chunk of December spending occurs closer to Christmas Day, the first nine days of the month look lacklustre," said ANZ economists Madeline Dunk and Adelaide Timbrell.

The federal government meanwhile revealed its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook on Wednesday, revising its projections for the budget deficit down sharply largely while not announcing any major new spending plans.

Five of the ASX's 11 sectors finished higher and six closed lower, including consumer discretionary and staples.

Health care was the biggest gainer, rising 1.1 per cent as CSL rose similarly and Sigma Healthcare soared 36.4 per cent to a six-year high of $1.04 as its shares resumed trading following its merger agreement with Chemist Warehouse.

In the heavyweight mining sector, Fortescue was up for a sixth day in a row, climbing 1.3 per cent to an all-time closing high of $26.71.

Rio Tinto added 0.8 per cent to a two-year high of $129.50 and BHP rose 0.7 per cent to a nine-month high of $47.87.

Goldminers were under pressure as the precious metal traded near a three-week low of $US1,978 an ounce. Newmont dropped 2.8 per cent and Evolution fell 1.4 per cent.

The Big Four banks were all in the green, however, with Westpac adding 0.9 per cent to $22.14,  CBA up 0.7 per cent to $108.15 and ANZ and NAB both advancing 0.8 per cent, to $24.99 and $29.76, respectively.

But insurance companies were down, possibly on the prospect of quicker rate cuts next year. IAG dropped 3.2 per cent and Suncorp finished one per cent lower.

The energy sector was also in the red, dropping 0.8 per cent, as record US oil production caused Brent crude to drop to a nearly six-month low of $US73 a barrel.

Woodside fell 1.1 per cent, Beach Energy slid 2.0 per cent and Whitehaven Coal retreated 2.6 per cent.

Elsewhere, foreign student placement company IDP Education was down 4.3 per cent to a six-month low of $20.78 and NextEd had fallen 2.2 per cent to a 66.5c amid a crackdown by the Albanese government on non-genuine international students. 

The Australian dollar was buying 65.58 US cents, from 65.94 US cents at Monday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Wednesday up 22.5 points, or 0.31 per cent, at 7,257.8.

* The broader All Ordinaries gained 22.7 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7,469.1.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 65.58 US cents, from 65.94 US cents at Tuesday's ASX close

* 95.48 Japanese yen, from 95.89 Japanese yen

* 60.79 Euro cents, from 61.23 Euro cents

* 52.22 British pence, from 52.44 pence

* 107.49 NZ cents, from 107.13 NZ cents.

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