Aust stocks open higher

Local market lifts as Bernanke flags no 'preset course' for QE taper.

The Australian stock market opened higher after gains on Wall Street as United States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said tapering of stimulus measures was not on a "preset course".

In testimony to Congress, Dr Bernanke reiterated that the Fed would likely scale back its $US85 billion-a-month bond-buying program later this year, but only if the economy improves.

At the 1015 AEST official market open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 0.44% to 5,003.7 points and the broader All Ordinaries index rose 0.43% to 4,988.1 points.

Materials were mixed, with the major miners rising.

Rio Tinto rose 1.19% to $56.82, while BHP Billiton gained 0.44% to $34.34.

Fortescue Metals rose 2.83% to $3.815.

Whitehaven Coal slipped 0.23% to $2.145, while Newcrest tumbled 3.66% to $11.05.

In energy, Santos edged up 0.14% to $13.96, Oil Search lost 0.31% to $8.135 and Woodside fell 0.77% to $37.16.

Financial stocks posted gains.

Commonwealth Bank gained 0.67% to $71.69, while ANZ Banking Group rose 0.87% to $29.05.

National Australia Bank increased 0.83% to $30.28, while Westpac Banking Corporation put on 0.99% to $29.69.

Investment bank Macquarie Group added 0.47% to $44.54.

"With earning seasons in the US hitting full stride this week, US leads will continue to drive global markets," IG analyst Evan Lucas said.

"Because Mr Bernanke’s testimony to the Senate tonight will be a tape recording of last night’s speech, earnings season will be more important."

In economic news, the National Australia Bank is due to release its business survey for the June quarter, while HIA-RP Data Residential Land Report for the March quarter is also due out.

In equities news, Woodside Petroleum is expected to post its second quarter report, while Duet Group and SP Ausnet have annual general meetings scheduled.

In Australia, the market yesterday closed slightly lower as investors waited for an update on economic stimulus measures in the US from that country's top central banker.

A strong production report from BHP Billiton boosted sentiment in the resources sector, but that was offset by losses in other sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 4.3 points, or 0.09%, at 4,981.7 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 2.1 points, or 0.04%, to 4,966.5 points.

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