Aust stocks higher at noon

Local market slightly higher after a Wall St rally as Microsoft boss flags retirement.

The Australian stock market was slightly higher at noon following gains on Wall Street as Microsoft announced chief executive Steve Ballmer will retire in the next 12 months.

The United States Commerce Department's unwelcome US new-home sales report for July - sales plunged 13.4% month-on-month - also proved a catalyst for the rally.

At 1205 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 0.22% to 5,134.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index lifted 0.24% to 5,127.3 points.

Financials were mostly higher.

Commonwealth Bank rose 0.5% to $72.41, while ANZ Banking Group lifted 0.78% to $29.87.

National Australia Bank put on 0.57% to $32.645, while Westpac Banking Corporation rose 0.51% to $31.63.

In the insurance sector, QBE fell 1.5% to $15.75, Insurance Australia Group rose 0.61% to $5.805 and Suncorp fell 1.98% to $12.39.

Materials were mostly higher.

BHP Billiton fell 0.28% to $35.54, while Rio Tinto gained 0.15% to $60.02.

Fortescue Metals lifted 0.9% to $4.49.

Whitehaven Coal put on 1.24% to $2.035 and Newcrest rose 7.2% to $14.00 after a report that its internal investigation into a continuous disclosure scandal looks set to run beyond its original timeline.

In the energy sector, Santos rose 1.58% to $14.78, Oil Search lifted 1.45% to $8.42 and Woodside fell 0.86% to $37.86.

The retail sector also rose.

Wesfarmers edged up 0.03% to $39.84, while Woolworths fell 0.39% to $33.40.

Myer rose 2.61% to $2.75 while rival David Jones put on 3.89% to $2.805.

Harvey Norman lifted 1.37% to $2.96 and JB Hi-Fi rose 0.69% to $19.05.

In media, Fairfax Media lost 1.72% to 57 cents, while 21st Century Fox fell 0.53% to $35.79.

Ten Network rose 1.61% to 31.5 cents.

Southern Cross Media fell 0.86% to $1.735, while Seven West lost 1.63% to $2.41.

Meanwhile, Qantas fell 2.49% to $1.2725, while Telstra rose 0.31% to $4.895.

Caltex fell 1.69% to $18.63 after flagging long-term favourable impacts of a weaker Australian dollar on its refining margins and posting a lift in first-half profit.

Boart Longyear slumped 7.21% to 51.5 cents after swinging to a heavy interim loss and saying it will undergo a debt restructure.

NIB rose 1.41% to $2.16 after posting a slightly lower full-year net profit and saying it will continue to push into new markets.

No major economic news is expected.

In Australia, the market on Friday outperformed Wall Street as the first positive Chinese manufacturing data in four months boosted the big banks and miners.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was was up 47.7 points, or 0.94%, at 5,123.4 points.

The broader All Ordinaries index was up 48.5 points, or 0.96%, at 5,115.2 points.

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