Aust stocks close slightly higher

Local market edges up after consumer sentiment drops, trade data misses forecasts.

The Australian sharemarket has edged up today as investors mull a weaker than forecast trade surplus, the outlook for iron ore prices and a drop in consumer sentiment.

At the 4.15pm (AEST) official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 19.2 points, or 0.35%, to 5,481.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 19.3 points, or 0.35%, to 5,462.7.

In local news today, the Reserve Bank of Australia left the official cash rate on hold at a record low 2.5 per cent, reaffirming its neutral bias, while official data showed a weaker than expected trade surplus of $731 million for March.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index fell sharply, following media reports about a possible deficit levy and potential government spending cuts. 

CMC Markets sales trader William Leys noted the general indecision in the market.

"With indices near record highs, it seems investors are not certain of where to from here," Mr Leys said. 

"This lack of conviction is being played out in the form of range bound trading, and we may see this continue for some time in the absence of a bigger catalyst."

Mr Leys noted some selling in the materials sector during the day as investors show concern about the outlook for China's iron ore demand.