RTTNews - The Australian stock market opened on a firm note Wednesday, tracking cues from Wall Street where stocks surged higher overnight on the back of some strong economic data and the nomination of Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke for a second term.

Financial, consumer staples and utility stocks are among the prominent gainers. Resource-related stocks are also trading firm.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is trading up by 35.2 points, or 0.8%, at 4,441. The broader All Ordinaries index is up by 34.5 points, or 0.8%, at 4,452.

On Tuesday, the S&P/ASX 200 index had ended down by 20.3 points, or 0.46%, at 4,406, while the All Ordinaries index drifted down by 16.7 points or 0.38% to 4,418.

Key bank stocks ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac are trading higher by 0.7%-1.3%. Diversified financial stock Macqurie Group is up by 1.7%.

In the materials space, heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are up by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively. Lihir Gold is gaining nearly 6%. Incitec Pivot, Bluescope Steel, Newcrest Mining, Fortescue Metals and Orica are also trading higher.

Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Santos and Origin Energy are also up in positive territory with modest gains.

Health care provider Healthscope Ltd announced a full-year profit that incerased 12.3% from last year, and launched a capital raising seeking at least A$140 million in new capital. The company posted annual profit of A$72.3 million in 2008/09, up from A$64.4 million in 2007/08.

In a statement to the stock exchange on Wednesday, Healthscope announced plans to generate fresh cash to fund future acquisitions, help pay for newly acquired pathology and medical centres and to expand hospitals. The stock is in a trading halt today.

Centro Properties Group, which nearly collapsed under its debt during the financial crisis, said its loss for the full-year widened to A$3.54 billion as it slashed the value of its properties. Revenue almost tripled to A$2.2 billion, while underlying profit declined 5.3% to A$229.2 million. The stock is currently trading down by nearly 9%.

Spreads maker and bakery goods company Goodman Fielder Ltd has posted a rise in revenue and net profit, and says the outlook for the current financial year is encouraging. The trans-Tasman operator said net profit for the year ended June 30 was A$177.1 million, up from A$27.7 million in the prior year, helped by significant items. Revenue increased 6.5% over the prior financial year to A$2.848 billion. The stock is currently up by over 2%.

In economic news Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases construction work done data for the June quarter and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations publishes its job vacancy report.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weaker today as investor doubts about the pace of improvement in the U.S. economy muted demand for high-yielding assets. In early trading, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8355/59, down from Tuesday's close of US$0.8361/64. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8344 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is trading notably higher, while New Zealand, Singapore and Korea are up with modest gains. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly lower on Tuesday.

On Wall Street, stocks finished modestly higher on Tuesday, as the day's positive economic reports and news of Ben Bernanke's reappointment generated some upbeat sentiment. Buying interest was largely sparked by the day's economic data, with a report from the Conference Board showing that consumer confidence rebounded significantly in the month of August after seeing some deterioration in July.

The Dow closed up 30.01 points, or 0.3%, at 9,539.29, the Nasdaq closed up 6.25 points, or 0.3%, at 2,024.23 and the S&P 500 closed up 2.43 points, or 0.2%, at 1,028.00.

Major European markets ended moderately higher on Tuesday, with the German DAX index and the French CAC 40 index closing up 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index climbed 0.4%.

Oil prices turned sharply lower on Tuesday as profit-takers collected on a rally to a 10-month high to US$75 per barrel. Light sweet crude for October delivery dropped to US$72.05, losing US$2.32 on the session. Earlier, oil hit US$75 for the first time since October.

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