Market edges higher despite impasse in US

The sharemarket edged higher on Wednesday as investors looked beyond the political impasse over the US budget and the possibility of a debt default.

The sharemarket edged higher on Wednesday as investors looked beyond the political impasse over the US budget and the possibility of a debt default.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed up 3.6 points at 5153.0, and the broader All Ords rose 3.5 points to 5151.6.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said gains by BHP Billiton and Westpac helped hold the market above water.

Upgrades from some US investment banks also boosted such iron ore miners as Fortescue and Atlas Iron.

"It's a relatively good day, considering how strong we saw the US markets off overnight," Mr Lucas said.

Gains in the materials, consumer staples and industrial sectors suggested that investors still saw fundamental value in stocks.

"It is a good sign for the market that once we are clear of this issue going on in Washington, things could actually be looking up," Mr Lucas said. He said there had been no change in the political rhetoric to suggest the government shutdown was about to end, or that the debt ceiling would be lifted soon.

In the resource sector, BHP Billiton gained 13¢ to $34.83, Rio Tinto eased 5¢ to $60.20, Fortescue Metals improved 9¢ to $4.78, and Atlas Iron jumped 8¢ to 97.5¢. Goldminer Newcrest rose 10¢ to $10.93 after announcing the departures of its chairman and chief executive, following this year's disastrous write-downs.

Among the banks, ANZ nudged up 1¢ to $30.45, National Australia advanced 7¢ to $34.26, Commonwealth Bank shed 8¢ to $71.02, and Westpac found 19¢ at $32.17.

Meanwhile, the bond market was slightly weaker in quiet trade as traders awaited US developments. CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said trading volumes had been low.

He said investors were becoming less concerned about the possibility of a US default.

"We're seeing more analysis of the cash flows for the US government and the flexibility to move those payments around," he said. "There has been a suggestion that they could get to early November without a technical default."

The December 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 95.955 (implying a yield of 4.045 per cent), down from 95.965 (4.035 per cent) on Tuesday.

The dollar was trading at US94.32¢ late on Wednesday, up from US94.18¢.