The Australian share market has opened slightly higher after a quiet night on financial markets on Friday.
At 1012 AEDT on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 7.9 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 5,360.7, while the broader All Ordinaries index was UP 8.9 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 5,360.7.
Outgoing chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. Photo: Bloomberg
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract rose 14 points at 5,326, with 5,325 contracts traded.
Financial markets began the new year on a shaky note, shedding some gains last week after weaker-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data raised concerns about growth in the world's second-largest economy.
''I think people will be looking at whether or not our market can hold the gains of the significant rally we've had since the middle of December,'' said Market Matters stockbroker and principal Shawn Hickman.
''I think one of the things that people will be looking at as well is gold stocks, which have had a very good rally over the last couple of weeks. People are suddenly starting to notice them, and gold was up again on Friday night.''
This week will bring a resumption of local and economic data after the Christmas and New Year break. In Australia, key figures to be released include the trade balance numbers on Tuesday, and the November retail sales and building approvals data on Thursday.
In the US, a private gauge of the jobs market for December, which will be published on Thursday, could also set the tone for the release of official figures of non-farm employment on Saturday morning.
Traders will also be keeping an eye on the Fed as it starts to trim its $US85billion-a-month assets purchase program.
The US central bank has a busy week ahead, with its vice-chairwoman, Janet Yellen, expected to be confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday as the successor to Ben Bernanke, whose term ends on January31.
On Thursday, the Federal Open Market Committee is set to release the minutes of its meeting, several weeks after it said it would pare back its monthly stimulus program by $US10 billion from this month.
''I like the fact that at the moment the [Fed] easing is being done in a very gradual process, which is having a calming effect on the market,'' said Rohan Schmidt, senior portfolio manager at Leyland Private Asset Management.
''The easing is a good thing if they do it gradually. It just shows the strength of the US economy … We're going to have another decent year [on the local sharemarket], though perhaps not quite as good as last year.''
Dr Bernanke said on Saturday that while he was optimistic about US economic recovery, it had some way to go. He added he was concerned about the ''elevated'' jobless rate and said the weakness in productivity, which had also affected other countries such as Australia, was holding back the US economy.
Mr Hickman said as investors were very bullish about the recovery in the US, with ''a lot of good news factored into the market'', it could be a good time for profit-taking.
''The equity market is in a perfect position at the moment,'' he said. ''Quite often when things are in a perfect position it's time to take profit, because they'll suddenly focus on something that's not quite so good in weeks to come.
''I think this is a market where I'd take profits … in a period of being very strong, and buy the weakness. But I am still net bullish.''