Aust stocks open higher

Local market pushes higher in early trade on strong Wall St leads.

The Australian stock market opened half a% higher following a strong performance on Wall Street that saw the S&P 500 close at a fresh record high.

At the 1015 AEDT official market open S&P/ASX200 index lifted 0.47% to 5,269.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries also increased 0.47% to 5280.2.

Materials led the market, with the major miners both posting strong gains.

BHP Billiton surged 1.81% to $36.58, while rival Rio Tinto inclined 1.88% to $65.45.

Fortescue Metals rose 2.25% to $5.345, while Newcrest Mining rallied 7.27% to $9.15.

Whitehaven Coal increased 2.48% to $1.86, while Santos inclined 1.06% to $14.32.

Oil Search added 0.75% to $8.10 and Woodside Petroleum added 1.54% to $38.21.

Financials were weaker, with three of the big four in the red.

ANZ retreated 0.13% to $30.93, while Commonwealth Bank decreased 0.66% to $75.69.

National Australia Bank lifted 0.06% to $33.83, while Westpac declined 0.66% to $31.50.

Investment bank Macquarie Group inclined 0.41% to $53.33.

In insurance, IAG gained 0.35% to $5.72, while Suncorp lost 0.38% to $13.00.

QBE inched 0.09% higher to $11.56.

The retail sector also gained ground.

Woolworths rose 0.65% to $34.07, while Wesfarmers inclined 0.28% to $43.55.

Myer added 0.75% to $2.68, while rival David Jones added 0.65% to $3.08.

Harvey Norman rallied 0.31% to $3.26, while JB Hi-Fi put on 1.14% to $21.24.

In media, Fairfax Media lost 0.78% to 64 cents and News Corp edged 0.1% higher to $19.30.

21st Century Fox added 1.04% to $35.82.

Ten Network gained 0.75% to 33.75 cents, while Seven West was flat at $2.21 and Southern Cross Media increased 0.61% to $1.64.

Telstra added 0.1% to $5.225, while Qantas added 1.14% to $1.1075.

In economic news on Thursday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases labour force figures for December and international merchandise imports data for the same month.

TD Securities/Melbourne Institute inflation gauge for December is also due to be released.

United States stocks closed decisively higher with the S&P 500 notching up a fresh record closing high, following solid corporate earnings reports and an upbeat Federal Reserve report.

The positive numbers came following a lift in European markets after the World Bank raised its growth forecast for the global economy.

Stocks were also aided by a robust fourth quarter result from Bank of America, which followed yesterday's strong earnings releases by fellow US banking behemoths JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. The numbers released by all three banks topped analyst estimates and hinted at an improving US economy.

That view was supported late in the trading day with the release of the Federal Reserve's beige book on economic activity.

In Australia, the market on Wednesday recovered some of Tuesday's losses due to a strong lead from the US.

Locally, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 33.4 points, or 0.64%, higher at 5,245.4.

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