Positives turn negative as retail disappoints

The sharemarket edged higher despite disappointing figures on retail sales and the widening current account deficit.

The sharemarket edged higher despite disappointing figures on retail sales and the widening current account deficit.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 8.3 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 5196.6, while the broader All Ordinaries added 10.9 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 5188.9.

"I think we're still to a large degree running off the fumes of yesterday's PMI [purchasing managers' index] data, especially out of China," OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said.

That data showed China's industrial sector expanded in August.

But local economic data released on Tuesday came in weaker than expected.

"That might have knocked the stuffing out of what maybe was going to be more of a positive day," Mr Le Brun said.

Australia's current account deficit widened to $9.35 billion in the June quarter, seasonally adjusted, a larger increase than expected, while retail sales increased by just 0.1 per cent in July.

Retail stocks were mixed, with JB Hi-Fi dropping 59¢ to $18.59, David Jones shed 4¢ to $2.81, and Myer gained 2¢ to $2.84.

Airline Virgin Australia gained 1.5¢ to 42¢ after the competition watchdog granted conditional approval to its trans-Tasman alliance with Air New Zealand.

In the resources sector, BHP Billiton gained 20¢ to $35.82, Rio Tinto jumped $1.83 to $61.05, and Fortescue Metals gained 21¢ to $4.54.

Among the banks, Westpac added 12¢ to $31.94, NAB gained 6¢ to $32.91, ANZ lifted 5¢ to $30.05, but Commonwealth Bank dropped 13¢ to $73.55.

The spot price of gold in Sydney finished at $US1390.54 ($1549.57), down $US4.

Meanwhile, a neutral statement on monetary policy from the central bank gave the dollar a bounce. Late on Tuesday, the dollar was trading at US90.34¢, up from US89.84¢.

The RBA kept the cash rate on hold at 2.5 per cent, as it waits for previous rate cuts to take effect.

"The Aussie was on the back foot after retail sales came in weaker than expected but then really all eyes were on the RBA," Easy Forex senior dealer Francisco Solar said. "There weren't too many variations from previous statements. It seems like the markets took it as, 'Well, if we don't have any new negatives to focus on, then it's a positive', and they decided to push the Aussie higher." AAP

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