Aust stocks rise at noon

Local market pares morning gains to sit slightly higher as US delays vote on Syria.

The Australian stock market is slightly higher at noon after consumer confidence hit a three-year high and United States President Barack Obama said he would delay a Congress vote on a Syria strike.

At 1205 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 0.35% to 5,219.6 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 0.32% to 5,215.3 points.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released lending finance data for July, showing business finance slumped while personal lending lifted.

The Westpac/Melbourne Institute Survey of Consumer Sentiment showed consumer confidence rose to a three-year high as low interest rates and political optimism boosted sentiment.

Materials were mixed, with the major miners gaining.

BHP Billiton rose 0.95% to $36.24, while Rio Tinto added 1.67% to $63.93.

Fortescue Metals was 3.88% higher at $4.685.

Whitehaven Coal lifted 0.69% to $2.185 and Newcrest retreated 3.14% to $12.485.

In the energy sector, Santos lost 1.21% to $14.73, Oil Search slipped 0.59% to $8.45 and Woodside fell 1.97% to $38.28.

Financials were mostly stronger, with three of the big four banks in the black.

Commonwealth Bank added 0.11% to $73.98, while ANZ Banking Group lifted 0.53% to $30.33.

National Australia Bank added 0.6% to $33.64, while Westpac Banking Corporation fell 0.28% to $32.32.

Investment bank Macquarie Group rose 2.56% to $48.16.

In the insurance sector, QBE rallied 1.4% to $15.565, Insurance Australia Group rose 0.54% to $5.62 and Suncorp lifted 0.98% to $12.825.

The retail sector was

Wesfarmers was 0.11% higher at $40.935, while Woolworths fell 0.69% to $34.42.

Myer fell 0.17% to $2.915 while rival David Jones rose 1.22% to $2.915.

Harvey Norman lifted 1.45% to $3.155 and JB Hi-Fi rose 0.79% to $19.895.

In media, Fairfax Media rose 0.45% to 56.25 cents and 21st Century Fox inched up 0.11% to $34.84.

Ten Network rose 3.12% to 33 cents.

Southern Cross Media retreated 1.59% to $1.855, while Seven West lifted 2.02% to $2.53.

Meanwhile, Qantas added 1.09% to $1.39, while Telstra rose 0.21% to $4.85.

No major equities news is expected.

In Australia, the market yesterday approached its highest point for the year as investor confidence is boosted by a decisive federal election result and encouraging Chinese economic data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 19.7 points, or 0.38%, to 5,201.2 points.

The broader All Ordinaries index added 19.5 points, or 0.38%, to 5,198.9 points.