Aust stocks open higher

Local market follows Wall Street rally after US new home sales plunge in July.

The Australian stock market opened higher 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 1015 AEST official market open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 0.38% to 5,143 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index lifted 0.4% to 5,135.6 points.

Financials were mostly higher.

Commonwealth Bank rose 0.71% to $72.56, while ANZ Banking Group lifted 0.13% to $29.68.

National Australia Bank edged down 0.06% to $32.44, while Westpac Banking Corporation rose 0.54% to $31.64.

In the insurance sector, QBE inched up 0.13% to $16.01, Insurance Australia Group rose 1.21% to $5.84 and Suncorp fell 2.29% to $12.35.

Materials were mostly higher, with the major miners moving each way.

BHP Billiton fell 0.17% to $35.58, while Rio Tinto gained 0.35% to $60.14.

Fortescue Metals lifted 1.57% to $4.52.

Whitehaven Coal put on 1.99% to $2.05 and Newcrest rose 4.67% to $13.67.

In the energy sector, Santos rose 0.62% to $14.64, Oil Search lifted 1.33% to $8.41 and Woodside fell 1.49% to $37.62.

The retail sector also rose.

Wesfarmers lifted 1.15% to $40.29, while Woolworths added 0.51% to $33.70.

Myer rose 1.31% to $2.715 while rival David Jones put on 0.93% to $2.725.

Harvey Norman lifted 1.03% to $2.95 and JB Hi-Fi rose 0.79% to $19.07.

In media, Fairfax Media lost 1.29% to 57.25 cents, while 21st Century Fox fell 0.36% to $35.85.

Ten Network rose 3.23% to 32 cents.

Southern Cross Media fell 0.57% to $1.74, while Seven West lifted 0.41% to $2.46.

Meanwhile, Qantas fell 0.19% to $1.3025, while Telstra rose 0.61% to $4.91.

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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