RTTNews - The Australian market is trading firm on Monday with investors picking up stocks cutting across various sectors amid hopes the global economy will soon be back on the rails. Energy, materials and consumer staples stocks are among the prominent gainers. Financials, industrials and healthcare stocks are also trading notably higher.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which opened at 4,089.8, is currently trading at 4,138.4, up 48.6 points over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading 49.2 points up at 4,46.5.

On Friday, the S&P/ASX 200 index had ended at 4,090, up 25.70 points or 0.63% over Thursday's close. The All Ordinaries closed up 24.70 points or 0.61% at 4,097.30.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank is up 0.7%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading higher by nearly a percent, National Australia Bank is up 0.9% and Westpac Banking Corporation is up by 0.5%. Diversified financials stock Macquarie Group is up by over 3%.

Materials stock Rio Tinto is up nearly 3%. BHP Billiton is trading modestly higher. Among other stocks in the materials space, Bluescope Steel, Fortescue Metals and Orical are up by 2% - 3%, while Newcrest Mining is trading with a small gain.

Energy stocks Santos and Woodside Petroleum are up with modest gains.

Australand Property Group is raising A$475 million in a fully underwritten share issue to strengthen its balance sheet and secure its funding needs for two years, the firm said on Monday. According to the release from the company, the offer comprises an institutional offer of up to about A$380 million and a retail issue of about A$95 million, with the group's majority securityholder, Singapore's CapitaLand, committing to take up its full pro-rata entitlement of around A$282 million.

The new shares are being offered at A$0.40 each, with shareholders entitled to buy seven for every 10 held, a 20% discount on the stock's last traded price of A$0.50. The Australand Property Group stock is in trading halt today.

Shares of Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd have also gone into a trading halt today. The company is seeking A$231 million of new capital through an equity raising, as it announced the departure of its chief executive and forecast a net loss for 2008/09. Virgin Blue's equity raising will consist of a placement of shares worth A$21 million, and a one-for-one non-renounceable rights offer seeking A$210.4 million.

The airline said its 25.5 per cent shareholder, Virgin Group, would support the capital raising. The company expects a full year group net loss of A$160 million to A$165 million in the year to June 30.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher today on the prospects of a record high bond auction in the U.S. In early trading, the Aussie was quoting at US$08190/92, up from Friday's close of US$0.8162/65. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8189 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is up sharply on hopes of strong quarterly earnings. The Nikkei is currently up by nearly 1.7%. The Korean market is trading firm with its benchmark KOSPI moving up by 1.2%. New Zealand and Singapore markets are also trading notably higher this morning.

Stock markets across the region had finished on the upside on Friday. While Japan's benchmark Nikkei index posted a 1.6% gain, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose by 0.8%.

Wall Street rebounded from lower levels and ended around the unchanged the line on Friday, shrugging off some weak quarterly numbers and a mixed report from Reuters and the University of Michigan, which showed that their reading on consumer sentiment for the month of July was upwardly revised from the preliminary reading but still came in well below the previous month.

The Nasdaq ended in the red for the first time in nearly two weeks as it slipped by 7.64 points or 0.4% to 1,965.96, the Dow climbed 23.95 points or 0.3% to 9,093.24 and the S&P 500 rose by 2.97 points or 0.3% to 979.26.

Major European markets closed on a mixed note, with the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index finishing down by 0.4% and 0.2% respectively. The FTSE 100 index of the U.K. edged up by 0.4%.

Oil finished a choppy session higher on Friday as traders continued to show optimism the global economy is on the mend, which would improve energy demand. Light sweet crude for September delivery moved up to US$68.05 per barrel, up 89 cents for the session. Prices touched as low as US$66.46, but later touched as high as US$68.18.

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