Rudolf Oultz watches the display board at the Australia Stock Exchange in Sydney, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. Australian and New Zealand markets have opened lower in reaction to ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgrading of the United States government credit rating from AAA to AA+. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
Rudolf Oultz watches the display board at the Australia Stock Exchange in Sydney, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011. Australian and New Zealand markets have opened lower in reaction to ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgrading of the United States government credit rating from AAA to AA+. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

The Australian sharemarket is trading slightly higher despite a weak lead from United States markets.

At 9am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 11.5 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 4947.2 points, and the broader All Ordinaries index had lifted 11.0 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 4966.8 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 14 points firmer at 4908 points, with 9752 contracts traded.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 42.47 points, or 0.30 per cent, to 13,944.05 points, weighed down by disappointing December quarter US productivity data.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said the local bourse had ignored a negative lead from US markets and was being carried forward on the back of some reasonable company earnings so far in the Australian reporting season.

"It (the market) has been quite resilient throughout the morning session," he said.

"We had some negative leads to work off, and obviously some negativity out of the euro zone."

"But the market has just continued onward and upward."

Mr Le Brun said investors would be keeping an eye out for the latest economic growth data from China later today.

Among the major banks at 9.10am, Commonwealth Bank gained 15 cents to $64.85, National Australia Bank advanced 16 cents to $28.79, Westpac added 15 cents at $28.11, and ANZ firmed 29 cents at $27.80.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton was four cents higher at $37.69, and Rio Tinto climbed 46 cents to $69.14.

Gold miner Newcrest's surged 85 cents to $24.20 as it announced that its first half profit had dropped by 51 per cent because of weaker production and sales.

Mr Le Brun said Newcrest's result was better than expected.

Iron ore explorer Sundance Resources plunged 4.25 cents, or 12.5 per cent, to 29.5 cents after another delay in its drawn-out takeover process.

AGL Energy shed 23 cents to $15.09 as it suspended an expansion of its coal seam gas operations in southwest Sydney due to community concerns.

National turnover at 9.19am was 721.7 million shares worth $1.44 billion.

The West Australian

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