The Australian stock market is trading firm this morning with investors shrugging off Wall Street cues and picking up consumer staples, energy, healthcare, materials, financials, energy and industrials stocks in early trading.

The benchmark S&P/200 ASX opened marginally higher than its previous close and is currently trading at 3715, up 47 points.

Key bank stocks Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ Bank and National Bank are trading marginally higher now. Among materials stocks, BHP Billiton is up 1.6%. Rio Tinto is trading 4% up. Orical is trading 2% higher and Newcrest is up 1.6%.

Media stock News Corp. is up 3.3%. Among other notable gainers, insurance stock QBE Insurance, diversed financials Macquaire Group and capital goods major Leighton Holdings are trading 1% - 2.5% higher than their previous closing prices.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar, rallying from a low of 0.7300, is trading at 0.7054 to the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index of the Japanese stock market is trading down in the red at present after opening on a firm note. At 8,708, the Nikkei is down 19 points from its previous close.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific region had ended on a mixed note on Wednesday. In Europe, markets closed on a fairly firm note.

Wall Street had some surprises yesterday with AT&T, McDonald's and Yahoo! beating earnings estimates. And there were at least a couple of disappointing report cards as well, with Boeing and Morgan Stanley reeling out numbers that fell short of expectations.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hinted that policymakers might be forced to alter their recovery strategies as the global financial crisis drags on. He explained that the revised estimate from the International Monetary Fund for global growth could spark a change in policy. The IMF lowered its 2009 outlook, now predicting a contraction of 1.3 percent for the year compared to its previous estimate of 0.5 percent growth.

We may have to adapt our policies further as conditions evolve, and we need to make sure we provide a scale of support that matches the intensity of the challenge, Geithner said.

While the Dow ended lower by 83 points, the Nasdaq composite index edged up marginally. The S&P500 closed with a small loss.

Crude oil reversed early declines and after trading flat for a major part of the session, ended marginally higher at $48.98 a barrel.

Once again, corporate earnings will be eyed with some big firms including Marriott International, Hershey and UPS reporting today. On the economic front, the weekly jobless claims data and existing home sales numbers will give direction to the market.

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