The Australian stock market is trading higher on Friday, extending prior-session gains, following a triple-digit gain on Wall Street overnight. In the local market, financial stocks led the market gainers. In early trading, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is gaining 56 points or 1.51% to 3,736, after closing nearly three percent higher on Thursday. The broader All Ordinaries index is up 53 points or 1.45% to 3,675.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened stronger. The Aussie opened at US$0.7156-0.7159, up from Thursday's close of US$0.7028-0.7034.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks closed Thursday's trading session higher, as investors reacted well to mixed economic news and liked what they heard from the G-20 summit in London. The continued advance also reflected some optimism about stabilization in the economy. The Dow closed up 216 points or 2.79% at 7,978, the Nasdaq gained 51 points or 3.29% to 1,603, and the S&P 500 added 23 points or 2.87% to finish at 834.
On the economic front, the latest Australian Industry Group - Commonwealth Bank Performance of Services Index or PSI data revealed that Australian services sector activity remained weak in March. The seasonally adjusted Australian PSI rose by 3.4 points to 35.6 in March, still well below the 50.0 points level separating expansion from contraction.
Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up 1.24%, ANZ Banking Group is gaining 2.48%, and National Australia Bank is adding 2.37%. Westpac is rising 2.56%, and investment bank Macquarie Group is surging 4.69%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is adding 2.84%, and Rio Tinto is gaining 1.23%. Gold miners were weaker, after gold closed lower on Thursday. Lihir Gold is dropping 5.60%, Sino Gold is losing 3.62%, and Newcrest Mining is falling 5.72%.
On Thursday, crude oil futures for May delivery closed sharply higher, breaking through the key technical support level of $50 a barrel, on improved demand prospects amid hopes the G-20 summit will help pull the world out of the economic crisis. Oil closed up $4.25 at $52.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday, after hitting an intraday low of $48.45 and a high of $52.87. In the Asian session Friday, crude is currently down $0.49 at $52.15 a barrel in electronic trading.
Among energy stocks, Woodside is adding 2.05%, Oil Search is rising 2.95%, and Santos is gaining 1.84%.
In the retail sector, David Jones is edging down 0.34%, Woolworths is losing 0.68%, and Coles' owner Wesfarmers is down 0.61%.
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