Miners help dig Australian shares out of a deep hole

The Australian share market has bounced back from five days of losses in a row as miners marched higher in lock-step with rising ore prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Thursday finished up 36.5 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7,642.1.

The broader All Ordinaries rose 37.9 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7,898.9.

The local bourse finished largely unchanged from its position before the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed a marginal lift in unemployment at 11.30am Sydney time.

Almost 7,000 jobs disappeared in March after a massive 117,600 employment jump in February.

Commsec chief economist Craig James said there was nothing in the data standing in the way of rate cuts in the second half of the year.

"So for now, the waiting game on interest rates continues," he said.

Investors were spooked earlier in the week as rising tensions in the Middle East and economic data out of the US lifted expectations that interest rates there will stay higher for longer.

Wall Street fell overnight after the market's implied pricing for a July 31 US interest rate cut dropped to under 40 per cent from 50-50 a week earlier, following hawkish commentary from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

“If higher inflation does persist, we can maintain the current level of (monetary) restriction for as long as needed," Mr Powell said.

But a jump in commodities prices sent the minerals-heavy ASX200 heading in the opposite direction.

Iron ore rebounded 5.5 per cent on Wednesday to a five-week high following reports of an increase in Chinese steel mill activity, NAB senior FX strategist Rodrigo Catril said.

Materials stocks were among the index's biggest winners, finishing one per cent higher, as did technology companies.

Iron ore heavyweights Rio Tinto and Fortescue metals climbed 1.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent higher respectively.

Australia's biggest company, BHP, firmed 1.5 per cent despite a mixed third quarter production update on Thursday morning.

"While 3Q production numbers were higher than consensus/RBC estimates on copper (and iron ore vs RBC estimates), there has been another notable reduction in calendar year 2024 metallurgical coal production guidance," RBC Capital Markets analyst Kaan Peker said.

Base metal miners also benefited from rising ore prices.

South32 climbed 1.2 per cent, while Mineral Resources rose 1.9 per cent and lithium miner Pilbara Minerals finished 2.1 per cent higher.

The big four banks all gained, with CBA and ANZ up 0.7 per cent, Westpac 0.6 per cent and NAB 0.9 per cent.

Qantas soared 3.4 per cent higher to $5.74 as it continued to reward shareholders with more on-market share buybacks.

The health care sector was the day's biggest loser, down half a percentage point.

Sleep apnoea device producer Resmed sank 4.3 per cent and Ramsay Health Care shed one per cent of its value.

The Australian dollar was buying 64.47 US cents, from 64.16 US cents at Wednesday’s ASX close.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday up 36.5 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7,642.1.

* The broader All Ordinaries climbed 37.9 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 7,898.9.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.47 US cents, from 64.16 US cents at Wednesday’s ASX close

* 99.46 Japanese yen, from 99.24 Japanese yen

* 60.35 Euro cents, from 60.44 Euro cents

* 51.69 British pence, from 51.52 pence

* 108.85 NZ cents, from 108.66 NZ cents.

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