RTTNews - Buoyed by a strong close on Wall Street overnight, the Australian stock market opened on a positive note Wednesday and is currently trading firm with stocks across various sectors surging higher on strong buying support.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is currently trading up 55.6 points or 1.3% at 4,437.2. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by 56.6 points or 1.3% at 4,442.5.

On Tuesday, the S&P/ASX 200 index had declined 6.8 points or 0.2% to finish at 4,381.6 while the All Ordinaries index ended down 12.2 points or 0.3% at 4,385.9.

Shares of miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are up by 2.6% and 0.7% respectively. Bluescope Steel is up by 5.7% and Onesteel is up nearly 5%. Fortescue Metals is trading up 2.5% and Incitec Pivot is trading with a modest gain. However, Newcrest Mining and Orica are down in the red with modest losses.

Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum is up by 1.8%. Origin Energy and Santos are trading modestly higher.

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading up by 0.25%-1%. Diversified financial company Macquarie Group is gaining 3.7%.

Bank of Queensland Ltd. plans to raise A$340 million in new equity as it positions itself to take advantage of emerging growth opportunities. The fully underwritten offer of new shares includes a A$143 million placement to institutions and its largest shareholder BRED Banque Populaire. It also includes a A$197 million one-for-nine non-renounceable entitlement offer, with A$85 million set aside for institutions and A$112 million for retail investors. The placement and entitlement offers will be conducted at the same price of A$10 per share. The stock is in a trading halt today.

Anti-flu drug developer Biota Holdings Ltd has posted an annual net profit of A$38.2 million, helped by royalties from its flagship product, Relenza, and says its outlook its strong. This compares to a loss of A$6.48 million in the prior financial year after Relenza royalties of A$45 million. Total revenues almost doubled in 2008/09 to A$83.3 million from A$45 million in the prior-year period. The company's stock is currently trading up 3.7% over its previous close.

The Reject Shop Ltd has posted a 13.9% rise in annual net profit on strong sales, saying it expects another testing year as volatile conditions continue. The company announced a full-year net profit of A$19.0 million, up 13.9% on its prior financial year, or up 21.8% per cent on a comparable 52 week basis. The stock is up nearly 1.5% now.

In economic news, Westpac and the Melbourne Institute release their indices of economic activity for June, and the Housing Industry Association releases its state and national outlooks for the June quarter.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher today, supported by firm equity markets and the prospect of rising interest rates. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8267/68, up from Tuesday's close of US$0.8263/66. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8281 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand, Singapore and Korea are trading modestly higher, while Japan is trading flat. Stock markets across the region had finished on a mixed note Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks saw notable strength on Tuesday, partly offsetting the steep losses posted in the previous session amid some encouraging earnings reports. A report from the Commerce Department showed an unexpected decrease in housing starts in the month of July.

The Dow closed up by 82.07 points, or 0.9%, at 9,217.41, the Nasdaq advanced by 25.08 points, or 1.3%, to 1,955.92 and the S&P 500 rose by 9.94 points, or 1%, to 989.67.

Major European markets all ended the day higher, with the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index rising by 0.6% and 0.5% respectively, while the German DAX index finished up by 0.7%.

Crude oil moved higher with recovering global equities improving the prospects for energy demand. Light sweet crude for September delivery rose to US$69.19, up US$2.44 on the session. Prices hit as high as US$69.58 after earlier hitting a low of US$66.11.

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