Australian Market Drifts Lower

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The Australian stock market slipped into negative territory on Wednesday, after opening higher on Wednesday following the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street. Gains by miners were more than offset by weakness in banking stocks.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 21.00 points or 0.34 percent to 6,244.80, after rising to a high of 6,277.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 16.80 points or 0.26 percent to 6,338.40.

The big four banks - ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac - are lower in a range of 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly weak despite crude oil prices rising overnight. Santos is edging lower by less than 0.1 percent and Oil Search is down 0.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is rising 0.4 percent.

The major miners are higher. BHP Billiton is rising more than 2 percent, Rio Tinto is adding almost 2 percent, and Fortescue Metals is up almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Evolution Mining is rising almost 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent.

Shares of Wattle Health Australia are gaining 9 percent after the infant formula company won regulatory approval to sell milk powder in China.

In economic news, Australia will see second-quarter figures for consumer prices and June figures for skilled vacancies today.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mostly higher on Tuesday, although the Nasdaq gave ground to finish in the red. The early strength was the results of positive earnings news - particularly from Google parent Alphabet and drug giant Eli Lilly. Trading activity was somewhat subdued, however, with a lack of major U.S. economic data keeping traders on the sidelines.

The Dow added 197.65 points or 0.79 percent to 25,241.94, and the S&P 500 gained 13.42 points or 0.48 percent to 2,820.40, while the Nasdaq fell 1.10 points or 0.01 percent to 7,840.77.

The European markets ended solidly in positive territory on Tuesday. The DAX of Germany climbed 1.12 percent, the CAC of France rose 1.04 percent and the FTSE 100 of the U.K. gained 0.70 percent.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Tuesday, as concerns about possible supply shortage resurfaced due to rising tension between the U.S. and Iran. WTI crude for September delivery settled at $68.52 a barrel, gaining $0.63 or 0.9 percent, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.