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Strength in iron ore miners helped cushion the local share market from losses as Asian markets fell away. 

The ASX 200 was buffeted by headwinds from overseas, reaching mid-session seven points or 0.1 per cent weaker at 6658. Gold miners continued to sparkle, but the big iron ore miners provided the muscle as the market struggled to retain early gains. 

Buoyed by a five-year high in iron ore, the “Big Australian”, BHP, touched a level last seen in May 2011 before falling back to break-even. Rio Tinto has been held back by lowered shipping forecasts from its Pilbara operations but this morning rallied 0.7 per cent. Fortescue butted against overhead technical resistance around the $9 mark, but was lately ahead one cent or 0.1 per cent at $8.83.

The health sector added support. Cochlear put on 0.4 per cent and CSL 0.7 per cent. Woolworths rose 0.3 per cent. 

The big banks lost ground. CBA fell 0.6 per cent, ANZ 0.s per cent, NAB 0.5 per cent and Westpac 0.1 per cent. 

What’s hot today and what’s not: 

Hot today:the market has a touch of gold fever with the price of the precious metal the highest in six years. The morning’s best performers on the index were all gold miners as the bull run in gold continued. Saracen Mineral surged 7.2 per cent to an all-time high. Saint Barbara put on 5 per cent and Resolute Mining 3.7 per cent. US gold futures continued to rally, lately up $10.20 or 0.7 per cent to $US1,428.40 an ounce

Not today:the pain continued for shareholders in supermarket group Metcash. Brokers were quick to cut their recommendations on the stock a day after the company announced a three per cent decline in earnings. JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs cut their recommendation to neutral. Macquarie went a step further, tipping the stock to ‘underperform’. Metcash shares were lately down 5.5 per cent. Asian markets retreated as investors continued to reduce exposure ahead of this weekend’s G-20 summit. In China, the Shanghai Composite dropped 1 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.9 per cent and the Nikkei in Japan gave up 0.2 per cent. 

US index futures briefly ticked higher before trading flat following reports that China’s Vice Premier called US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer yesterday to discuss trade. 

Turning to commodity markets, Texas crude futures retreated 49 cents or 0.9 per cent this morning to $US57.42 a barrel. 

On currency markets, the dollar was flat at 69.6 US cents.

Looking ahead to tonight, Wall Street awaits reports on consumer confidence and housing, but the main event is likely to be a speech on the economy and monetary policy by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. 

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