ASX marginally higher mid-session

The Australian sharemarket is trading marginally higher, with a good earnings report from electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi boosting retail stocks.

At 9am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 5.2 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4976.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had lifted 6.4 points, or 0.13 per cent, to 4995.8 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures inched forward one point to 4936 points, with 10,848 contracts traded.

"It's a bit of a tricky session. We're pretty much flat at the moment," IG Markets market strategist Stan Shamu said.

"Of course, most of the region is shut today for the lunar new year holiday. It just seems like we don't have many leads at all out there."

Mr Shamu said JB Hi-Fi had released a positive earnings report.

"They've lifted the rest of the sector," he said.

Mr Shamu said the question on everyone's lips was when the stock market would hit the 5000-point mark.

"It's hard to quantify, especially when we've got such big earnings reports coming up," he said.

"I suppose we'll probably see a little bit of consolidation just hanging around these levels until we start seeing some of the big names come out, like Commonwealth Bank on Wednesday."

At 9.03am, JB Hi-Fi had surged $1.61, or 14.62 per cent, to $12.62 after reporting its first half net profit had risen three per cent to $82 million.

Elsewhere in the retail sector, Myer Holdings was eight cents richer at $2.67, and David Jones had advanced eight cents to $2.71.

Insurance Australia Group dipped four cents to $5.15 after it said about 14,300 claims related to ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and bushfires in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania could cost the company up to $175 million.

Share market operator ASX firmed nine cents to $36.04. ASX will retain its dominance of processes behind share sales after the federal government put off for two years a decision to consider new competitors.

Among the major banks, National Australia Bank added 32 cents to $29.34, Commonwealth Bank put on 18 cents at $65.01, Westpac firmed eight cents to $28.16, but ANZ backtracked 21 cents to $27.91.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton lost 17 cents to $37.78, and Rio Tinto dumped 24 cents to $69.36.

National turnover at 9.25am was 591.6 million securities worth $1.02 billion, with 417 stocks up, 385 down and 308 unchanged.

The West Australian

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