The Australian stock market opened on a strong note Thursday morning with stocks across the board rallying higher on positive cues overnight from Wall Street.

Energy, financials, healthcare, materials and utilities stocks are trading firm with handsome gains. Consumer discretionary, consumer staples, industrials, information technology and telecommunications stocks are also up sharply in positive territory.

The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200, which rose to 3,790 after a firm start, is trading at 3,774, up 79 points over its previous close. The All Ordinaries index is up 75 points at 3,737.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank is up 2.8%. ANZ Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia are trading higher by 2.7% and 2.2% respectively. Macquarie Group is up 3.4%.

Among materials, BHP Billiton is up 2.5%, Orica is gaining 4.2% and Rio Tinto is rising 3.4%. Capital goods stock Leighton Holdings is up nearly 3%, while media stock Newscorp is advancing nearly 4%.

In the energy space, Origin Energy is trading with a gain of 2%. Worleyparsons is up 3.5% while Woodside Petroleum is trading 1.2% higher.

Among insurance stocks, QBE Insurance is up 4.6% and Insurance Australia is trading 1.8% higher than its previous close.

In currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at 0.7279 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand is trading firm with its benchmark NZX 50 gaining 2.3%. Japan's Nikkei index is up nearly 300 points or 3.5% now.

In the U.S., GDP numbers fell short of expectations, but Wall Street investors shrugged off the data and picked up stocks so consistently that the market stayed in positive territory right through Wednesday.

The advance first-quarter GDP report indicated that the U.S. economy fell 6.1% between January and March, sharper than an expected drop of 4.7%. However, on hopes economic conditions will improve following the sharp rise in consumption level, participants remained active buyers during the session. Personal consumption climbed 2.2% after dropping 4.3% in the fourth quarter, better than expected as the consensus called for an increase of 0.9%.

The FOMC kept the federal funds rate unchanged at 0.00% to 0.25%, as expected. Its quantitative easing targets were also unchanged. The FOMC's latest policy statement noted that household spending will continue to be pressured by job losses, decreased housing wealth, and tight credit conditions. The committee expects continued weak economic activity, but feels its policy actions combined with fiscal stimulus should help contribute to a gradual resumption of sustained economic growth.

Hope for an economic recovery in the second half of this year helped prop up oil prices. Oil prices gained $1.05 to close at $50.97 per barrel, despite a massive build of 4.05 million barrels during the week ending April 24.

On the corporate front, Bank of America was on investors' minds during the session as Chairman and Chief Executive Ken Lewis faced severe shareholder anger at the bank's annual meeting.

Ken Lewis was stripped of his title as chairman of Bank of America Corp. on Wednesday, but shareholders allowed him to retain the title of Chief Executive Officer. In a close vote, shareholders moved to split the two leadership positions, approving board member Walter Massey as new BofA Chairman.

The Dow closed up 168.79 points or 2.1 percent at 8,185.73, the Nasdaq closed up 38.13 points or 2.3 percent at 1,711.94 and the S&P 500 closed up 18.48 points or 2.2 percent at 873.64. With the upward moves, the Nasdaq ended the session at its best closing level in nearly six months, while the Dow set a more than two-month closing high and the S&P 500 set a three-month closing high.

Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended on a high note Wednesday as traders went bargain hunting. However, the Japanese market remained closed on account of Showa Day.

The major European markets also experienced substantial strength, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advancing 2.3 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index rose 2.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries showed a notable decline following the Fed announcement, closing near their lows of the day. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note ended the session up 9.4 basis points at 3.096 percent.

Earnings will determine the U.S. market's direction on Thursday with nearly 150 companies scheduled to announce their latest results. Initial jobless claims data and personal spending data for March are scheduled to be released.

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