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Australia: Shares hit 2-week high on Wall Street strength


[SYDNEY] Australian shares rose firmly on Thursday in the wake of Wall Street's solid gains after Federal Reserve minutes indicated belief that US interest rates can increase in December without causing an abrupt market reaction.

Stocks were up across the board. At 0145 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.5 pe rcent or 77.19 points to 5,209.9, its highest level in two weeks.

The index, which edged up 0.3 per cent on Wednesday, is on track for its best weekly performance since the week ended Oct 9.

"We are just following the lead that has been provided by US markets overnight," Chris Conway, head of research and trading, Australian Stock Report said.

Market voices on:

"Our commodities sector which is a fairly significant portion of the market is getting a bump today as well, because we saw some commodity price strength overnight, so really our market is firing on all cylinders today."

International payments company OzForex was the top gainer on the index after Western Union made a A$888 million takeover proposal. The stock jumped 32 per cent to a more than 18-month high.

The heavyweight resources sector propped the index higher with Newcrest Mining jumping 4.6 per cent, Rio Tinto rose 4.3 per cent and BHP Billiton up 2.4 per cent.

BHP Billiton will be on the radar with its annual general meeting and a news conference later in the day.

National Australia Bank gained 2.1 per cent, ANZ rose 1.9 per cent, while Westpac Bank and Commonwealth Bank were up 1.6 and 1.3 per cent respectively.

US stocks closed higher and investors appeared positively inclined toward higher rates after minutes of the October Fed meeting showed a solid core of officials rallied behind a possible December rate hike, and that further increases would be gradual.