RTTNews - The Australian market ended marginally higher on Thursday driven by energy stocks and positive earnings from companies, However, weakness in healthcare and property stocks limited the gains.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index added 3.70 points, or 0.08%, to close at 4,378, while the All-Ordinaries Index ended at 4,391, representing a gain of 3.80 points, or 0.08%.

On economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that merchandis imports rose 6% during July over the revised figure for the previous month. Total merchandise imports totaled A$16.698 billion, up just over A$1 billion from June. The report further stated that the preliminary balance of payments increased by 4% or a seasonally adjusted A$678 million compared to the month before.

Light sweet crude oil price for September delivery ended at $72.75 a barrel in electronic trading, up $0.33 from its previous close $72.42 a barrel in New York on Wednesday.

Energy stocks advanced following sharp rise in crude oil price in the international market on expectations of rise in oil demand. Woodside Petroleum surged up 7.34%, and Oil Search Ltd rose 2.52%. However, Santos edged down 0.41% after reporting a sharp drop in profit for the first six months of the year. Origin Energy slipped 0.20%.

Metals and mining stocks also posted gains. BHP Billiton added 1.14%, Fortescue Metals added 0.44%, Iluka Resources edged up 0.27%, Mincor Resources advanced 1.96% and Orica Ltd rose 2.60%. However, Rio Tinto edged down 0.29% ahead of the results. After the markets closed, Rio Tinto reported a 65% drop in net profit for the first half, hurt by drop in aluminum, iron ore and copper prices.

Pellet maker Brambles gained 3.62% after the company reported a 30% drop in net income for the full year, higher than the mean expectations.

Property and casualty insurance provider QBE Insurance Group surged up 6.36% after the insurer increased first half profit by 19%. Life/Health insurance provider AMP Ltd gained 2.91% after the company reported a 16% decline in underlying profit for the first half, but came in above analysts' expectations.

Wesfarmers, owned by Coles, reported a 44% rise in net income for the full year ended 30 June 2009, but missed the analysts' estimate. The stock slumped 4.15% following the results. Among other retailers, David Jones edged up 0.21%, and Woolworths advanced 1.54%. Harvey Norman, however, slipped 1.53%.

Mixed trend was witnessed among the banking stocks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia added 0.09% and National Australia Bank edged up 0.19%. However, ANZ Bank lost 0.91% and Westpac Banking fell 0.98%.

In the U.S., stocks recovered from early weakness and ended notably higher driven by a report indicating a jump in oil demand. The Dow closed up by 61.22 points or 0.7% at 9,279, the Nasdaq climbed by 13.32 points or 0.7% to 1,969 and the S&P 500 rose by 6.79 points or 0.7% to 996.

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