RTTNews - Tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks surged higher overnight, the Australian stock market opened on a firm note Friday, with energy, materials and healthcare stocks posting strong gains. Financial and healthcare stocks also moved up sharply.

Though the initial momentum has subsided a bit subsequently, the Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is still trading in positive territory at 4,479, up 28.2 points or 0.6% over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading up by 27.5 points, or 0.6%, at 4,485.6.

The Australian market ended in negative territory on Thursday on concerns that Chinese government is considering curbs on over-capacity in industries. Positive economic data on business investment, however, limited the losses. The S&P/ASX200 index had ended lower by 3.7 points at 4,451, while the All Ordinaries index ended with a loss of 6.3 points at 4,458.

Leading bank stocks ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac are currently trading firm. Macquarie Group is trading up by 1.5%.

Despite giving up some gains, leading miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are trading up by 1% and 1.3% respectively. Bluescope Steel, Fortescue Metals, Incitec Pivot and Lihir Gold are also trading firm. However, Newcrest Mining and Orica are drifting lower.

In the energy space, Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy are up in positive territory with notable gains.

Caltex Australia Ltd has posted a 52% rise in first-half net profit, due to better refiner margins, but expects the second half to be challenging. Caltex said its first-half net profit on a replacement cost basis (RCOP), which excludes the impact of the rise or fall in oil prices, was A$298 million, up from A$196 million in the prior corresponding period. The result was above the company's guidance in June for a net profit for the six months to June 30 of between A$270 million and A$295 million. The energy stock is trading in the red with a 4% loss.

Automotive Holdings Group Ltd has reported a drop in annual profit, but remains confident it will trade well in the current financial year. Net profit for the 12 months to June 30 was A$24.1 million, down from A$53.2 million the previous year. Underlying net profit was A$42.2 million, compared to A$48.5 million last year. The stock is trading down by about 3.5%.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened sharply higher on the back of a stronger euro. In early trading this morning, the Australian dollar was quoting at US$0.8390/96, up 1.45% from Thursday's close of US$ 0.8274/77. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8407 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, New Zealand and Korea are trading firm with notable gains, while Singapore is trading modestly higher. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly lower on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks ended with modest gains on Thursday despite an initial retreat into the red. Though stocks failed to sustain at higher levels due to uncertainty about the economic outlook, the Dow managed to sign off on a positive note for the eighth successive session.

The Dow advanced by 37.11 points, or 0.4%, to 9,580.63, the Nasdaq gained 3.30 points, or 0.2%, to close at 2,027.73 and the S&P 500 edged up by 2.86 points, or 0.3%, to 1,030.98.

Major European markets closed on the downside on Thursday. The German DAX index ended lower by about 1%, while the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index both fell by 0.5%.

After showing a notable decline in early trading, crude oil prices rallied following a downturn in the value of the U.S. dollar. Crude for October delivery ended the session up US$1.06 at US$72.49 a barrel, after falling as low as US$69.83 earlier in the day.

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