RTTNews - The Australian stock market opened on a positive note on Friday with the overnight surge on Wall Street triggering some strong buying in energy related stocks. However, with investors choosing to take some profits at higher levels, the market has pared some of the gains subsequently.

The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 rose to 4,026.7 within minutes of the opening bell, but has drifted down sharply after staying firm for a while. Currently, the index is trading at 4,008.6, up 13 points or 0.3% over its previous close. The broader All Ordinaries index, which moved on to 4,016.9 earlier this morning, is currently up by 12.1 points or 0.3% at 3,999.9.

On Thursday, the Australian market extended gains to a third successive session. The S&P/ASX200 index ended up 71.1 points or 1.81% at 3,995.6 and the All Ordinaries index advanced 70.3 points or 1.79% to 3,987.8.

Even as several stocks from the energy space are trading firm, stocks from materials, industrial and financial sectors are off their early highs due to profit taking. Telecommunications, information technology and healthcare stocks are exhibiting weakness.

Materials stocks are trading mixed. While BHP Billiton, Newcrest Mining and Orica are trading in positive territory with modest gains, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and Lihir Gold are exhibiting weakness.

Despite coming off their highs, energy majors are trading in positive territory. Santos is up 2.2%, Woodside Petroleum is trading nearly 2% up and Origin Energy is up by a modest 0.35%.

Among bank stocks, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading modestly higher while National Australia Bank is down with a small loss.

Avoca Resources Ltd has increased its shareholding in its reluctant takeover target Dioro Exploration NL. Gold miner Dioro had rejected an all-scrip offer from Avoca and said earlier this week that it was in talks with other potential buyers. Avoca, which owns the Higginsville gold project in Western Australia, said on Friday it had increased its stake in Dioro to 17.13% from 14.95%. After an initial surge this morning, the Avoca Resources stock is currently trading flat.

Macquarie CountryWide Trust says it has agreed to sell its 75% interest in a portfolio of 86 properties in the United States for US$1.3 billion, or A$1.62 billion. The price reflected a capitalization rate of 9.1% based on the Trust's estimated net operating income for calendar 2009, valuing the portfolio at US$1.73 billion, or A$2.14 billion, Macquarie CountryWide said on Friday. It said the deal would eliminate A$1.38 billion of debt scheduled to mature in coming years and would release around A$226 million in gross cash proceeds. The stocks is trading nearly 12% up at present.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases international trade price indices for June today while the Melbourne Institute publishes its Bulletin of Economic Trends for July.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened higher on Friday, with better-than-expected results from leading U.S. bank JP Morgan Chase lifting investors hopes for a recovery in the U.S. financial system.

Earlier this morning, the Aussie was trading at US$0.8063/68, up 1.24% over Thursday's close of US$0.7964/69. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8012 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, Singapore and Korea are trading higher. The New Zealand market is trading flat. Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region had closed mostly higher on Thursday, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbing by 0.6% and Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closing up by 0.8%.

On Thursday, Wall Street ended on a firm note, extending a recent upward move despite largely mixed economic and earnings news. On the economic front, a report from the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits continued to decrease in the week ended July 11th, with initial jobless claims falling by more than economists had been expecting. The report from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that showed a greater-than-expected fall in the index of manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region did hurt sentiment to an extent, but data on homebuilder confidence turned out to be a positive for the market.

Strong results from JP Morgan Chase kept the mood upbeat. The Dow closed up by 95.61 points or 1.1% at 8,711.82, the Nasdaq surged 22.13 points or 1.2% to 1,885.03 and the S&P 500 moved up by 8.06 points or 0.9% to 940.74.

Major European markets closed on the upside with moderate margins. The German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index moved up by 0.6% and 0.9% respectively while U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index posted a gain of 0.4%.

Crude oil turned to the upside after some early weakness Thursday and finished above the US$62 a barrel mark. A better-than-expected employment report improved expectations for energy demand. Light sweet crude oil for August settlement finished at US$62.05 per barrel, up 51 cents on the session. Earlier, oil had hit as low as US$60.29.

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