Australia Markets closed

Aust shares still gaining ground

The Australian share market is higher, helped by the market optimism that followed the the breakthrough deal in US to avoid the fiscal cliff.

At 1015 AEDT on Thursday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 20.5 points, or 0.44 per cent, at 4,726.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 22.3 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 4,745.2.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 17 points at 4,701 with 10,800 contracts traded.

On Wednesday, Australian time, the US Congress approved a bill rolling back a package of tax hikes and spending cuts that had threatened to push America back into recession - a situation called the fiscal cliff.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the Australian market is continuing the rally that started on Wednesday after the US breakthrough.

"Certainly the fact that the US is dealing with its budget issues and stepping back from the brink is good news for Australia," Mr James said.

Mr James said sectors like health care, telecommunications and utilities were lagging behind while the technology and resources sectors were performing well.

"It is very much the growth areas of the market that are leading the charge."

With the fiscal cliff out of the way, he said the focus would shift back to economic data, with the next major event being the release of US non-farm payrolls for December during the offshore session on Friday night.

Commonwealth Bank shares were up eight cents, to $62.80 after hitting an all-time high of $63.07 in the first few minutes of trade.

The other major banks gained ground, ANZ shares rose seven cents to $25.16, Westpac was up eight cents to $26.18 and Nations Australia bank was 8.5 cents higher at $25.18.

Miners extended yesterday's gains.

Rio Tinto shares rose 77 cents, or 1.14 per cent to $68.39, BHP Billiton added 4.5 cents to $37.885 and Fortescue Metals had put on 1.6 per cent to $5.00.