RTTNews - Trading got off to a firm start in the Australian stock market on Tuesday, with strong overnight cues from Wall Street triggering heavy buying in energy, materials, industrials and consumer staples stocks.

The benchmark Australian index S&P/ASX 200 rose to 3,944 after opening at 3,913 and is currently trading at 3,931.10, up 36.70 points over its previous close. The All Ordinaries index is up by 38.20 points at 3,926.10.

On Monday, the S&P/ASX 200 had ended 76.30 points up at 3,894 while the All Ordinaries index moved up by 74.60 points to 3,888.

Rio Tinto Ltd has confirmed it has settled iron ore supply contracts for 2009 with most of its Asian customers, barring those in China.

Rio Tinto's subsidiary Hamersley Iron has settled its iron ore contract with South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Taiwanese steelmakers CSC and Dragon on the same terms agreed during last week with all its Japanese customers. The Rio Tinto stock is currently trading 4.8% up.

Among other key players in the materials space, Orica and BHP Billiton are trading with sharp gains.

Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum and Santos are trading firm. Woodside Petroleum announced that construction of the A$12 billion Pluto gas project off Australia's West Coast was about 65% complete at the end of May.

Capital goods issue Leighton Holdings is up nearly 2%. In the banking space, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading lower, while National Bank of Australia is up with a modest gain.

Pacifica Group Ltd fears the bankruptcy of General Motors Corp in the U.S. is likely to have an adverse impact on the brake maker's earnings in 2009. The full financial impact of GM's bankruptcy could not yet be ascertained, and would be dependent on the time the biggest U.S. car maker would be in Chapter 11 protection, Melbourne-based Pacifica said in a statement on Tuesday. However, shares of Pacifica Group have done fairly well this morning, though on thin volumes. The stock is currently trading higher by 3.7%.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics balance of payments and international investment data for the March quarter is to be released today. Data on ABS building approvals for April and government finance statistics for March quarter will also be released today.

In other economic news, the Reserve Bank of Australia's monthly board meeting is scheduled to take place today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at 0.8069 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, Korea and New Zealand are trading firm.

General Motors filed for bankruptcy, but the impact of the auto giant's fall from grace did not cast a shadow on Wall Street on Monday as investors rode on promising economic figures.

The Dow closed up 221.11 points or 2.6 percent, at 8,721.44, the Nasdaq finished up by 54.35 points or 3.1 percent, at 1,828.68, and the S&P 500 rose 23.73 points or 2.6 percent to 942.87.

The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region soared on Monday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index rose by 1.6 percent, while China's Hang Seng climbed 3.4 percent.

Major European markets also closed considerably higher. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index finished up by 3.1 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index also enjoyed notable strength, closing up by 2.0 percent.

Fuelled by expectations of increased demand, crude oil prices hit a seven-month high above $68 a barrel on Monday and appear poised to test higher levels.

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