Stocks edge higher despite rates news

THE sharemarket closed marginally firmer yesterday despite slipping in late trade after the central bank kept interest rates on hold.

THE sharemarket closed marginally firmer yesterday despite slipping in late trade after the central bank kept interest rates on hold.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 7.7 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 4337.

The market opened firmer, buoyed by positive US manufacturing data and higher commodity prices, but fell after the Reserve Bank announced it was keeping the cash rate on hold at 4.25 per cent.

"It seems some investors might have been holding out for a rate cut today," said IG Markets market strategist Stan Shamu. "The central bank certainly sounds like it is prepared to cut rates should demand conditions significantly weaken provided inflation is within target."

The session's outperformer was the telecommunication sector. Telstra put on 6?, or 1.8 per cent, to $3.33 as investors parked their funds in the high-yielding company. TPG Telecom rose 4?, or 2.2 per cent, to $1.84 while Optus-owner SingTel inched up 1? to $2.40.

Among the big miners, BHP Billiton gained 6? to $35.18, Rio Tinto was up 60? at $66.79 and Fortescue Metals rose 6? to $6.01.

ANZ was the only one of the big four banks to backtrack, losing 7? at $22.99.

Metcash fell 20?, or

4.7 per cent, to $4.10 after the supermarket owner and grocery wholesale said it would axe almost 10 per cent of its workforce as it struggles with the price war between Coles and Woolworths.

Coles owner Wesfarmers was up 8? at $29.99 and Woolworths finished 6? firmer at $25.70.

Shareholders in Transfield Services are bracing for an expected profit downgrade from the construction and maintenance company. Transfield's shares were placed in a trading halt on Tuesday and last traded at $2.49 as the company revealed it was carrying out a review of its businesses.

Steel maker and iron ore miner OneSteel which yesterday unveiled its new corporate name, Arrium eased half a cent to $1.27.

Norton Gold Fields jumped 5?, or 27 per cent, to 23.5? after its biggest shareholder, China's Zijin, launched a $229 million takeover.

The spot gold price was up $US9.42 at $US1678.67 an ounce at the close of Sydney trade. However, Newcrest, Australia's biggest gold producer, lost 31?, or 1.1 per cent, to $29.19.

Market turnover was

2.12 billion shares worth $4.64 billion, with 506 stocks up, 472 down and 411 steady. The June share price index futures contract was up

9 points at 4342 points at the close, with about 30,000 contracts traded. AAP

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