RTTNews - Tracking overnight Wall Street cues and higher oil prices, the Australian stock market opened on a positive note on Friday with stocks from the resources and financial sectors leading the charge. Consumer staples, consumer discretionary and industrial stocks are also trading sharply higher.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which moved on to 4,122.1 earlier this morning after opening at 4,064.1, is currently trading at 4,110.5, up 46.4 points or 1.1% over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by 46.7 points or 1.1% at 4,119.3. Earlier, it had surged to 4,130.4.

On Thursday, the S&P/ASX200 index had closed down 4.4 points or 0.1% at 4,064.1, snapping an eight-session winning streak. The All Ordinaries index, however, made it nine-in-a-row as it ended up 3.7 points or 0.1% at 4,072.8.

In the materials space, Rio Tinto is up by over 5% and BHP Billiton is gaining 2.5% while Fortescue Metals and Bluescope Steel are up by 5.5% and 6.9% respectively. Orica and Newcrest Mining are also trading firm.

Hurt by falling crude oil prices, Woodside Petroleum's bottom line took a hit, with revenues declining sharply in the second quarter. Australia's second-biggest oil and gas producer said revenue in the June quarter was A$938 million, down 36% from the prior corresponding period. Production at Woodside was up 1% in the quarter on a year-for-year basis, and sales rose 2%, the company said in a report to the stock exchange today. The energy stock is currently up with a modest gain of 0.5%.

Origin Energy is trading with a notable gain, while Santos is down in the red with a modest loss.

Among bank majors, National Australia Bank is down by over 4.5% and ANZ Bank is down with a modest loss, while Westpac Banking Corporation is up by 0.8% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is gaining 1.7%.

Clothes retailer Country Road Ltd says it expects profit before tax for the year ended June 30 to increase by up to 56% from the previous year. The company said on Friday that a pleasing second-half trading performance would see profit before tax for the 2008-09 financial year of between A$21.3 million and A$21.8 million, up 52%-56% on the 2007-08 financial year. The Country Road stock is yet to be traded today.

In economic news on Friday, the Housing Industry Association - RP Data will release their residential land report for the March quarter.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened lower on Friday on the back of a few weak earnings reports from Wall Street after trading hours overnight. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8119/24, down from Thursday's close of US$0.8191/97. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8131 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore are up sharply in positive territory with their key indices gaining 1.2%-1.7%. The South Korean market is also trading firm. Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region finished on the upside on Thursday. While Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index posted a 0.7% gain, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 3%.

On Wall Street, stocks surged higher and ended on a firm note on Thursday on encouraging reports from the National Association of Realtors and the Labor Department. While existing home sales rose by a better-than-expected 3.6% in June, jobless claims rose by slightly less than economists had expected. Better-than-expected results from a few top firms including 3M, Ford and Wyeth also aided sentiment to a notable extent.

The Dow closed up by 188.03 points or 2.1% at 9,069.29 while the Nasdaq extended its winning streak to a twelfth successive session and settled 47.22 points or 2.5% up at 1,973.60. The S&P 500 moved up by 22.22 points or 2.3% to 976.29.

Major European markets also closed notably higher. While the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index finished up by 2.5% and 2.1%respectively, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index posted a 1.5% gain.

Crude oil prices turned sharply higher on Thursday as an encouraging housing report provided a boost for the prospects of energy demand. The rally took prices to a three-week high.
Light sweet crude oil for September delivery closed at US$67.16, up US$1.76 on the session. Prices touched as high as US$67.49 after hitting as low as US$64.40 earlier in the session.

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