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Aust stocks open firmer as Wall St rallies

The Australian market has opened firmer as Wall Street rallied to fresh five-year highs.

At 1027 AEDT on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 11.7 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,093.6 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 9.4 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 5,110.4 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 13 points at 5,073 points, with 8,719 contracts traded.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said the Australian market had rallied on the back of the US market reaching fresh five year highs.

"Investors are rolling with the momentum, it's hard to fight," she told AAP.

"The Australian market is looking very strong, we're in the fifth consecutive week of gains."

The big banking stocks were driving the surge in the Australian market, while resources stocks were under pressure from falling commodity prices, such as copper.

BHP Billiton shares were 22 cents, or 0.56 per cent weaker, to hit $38.78 at 1039 AEDT after chief executive Marius Kloppers announced he would retire from the role in May.

The announcement came as the global resources giant posted a 58 per cent fall in first half profit to $US4.24 billion ($A4.14 billion) due to lower commodity prices and a weak US dollar.

Mr Kloppers is to be replaced by the 56-year-old head of BHP's non-ferrous business, Andrew Mackenzie.

Woodside shares dipped 21 cents, or 0.55 per cent, to $38.12, despite announcing a 98 per cent lift in full-year net profit to $US2.98 billion ($A2.89 billion) for the 2012 calendar year, from $US1.5 billion ($A1.46 billion) in 2011.

Meanwhile, Seven West Media shares have fallen 19 cents, or 7.54 per cent, to $2.34 after it announced a loss of $109.3 million for the first half of the financial year because of restructure costs and the lower value of its magazines.

Suncorp Group shares have fallen four per cent, or 47 cents, to $11.20 after the insurer's posted a first half profit increase of 48 per cent because of lower insurance claims and stronger financial markets in the six months to the end of December.

Suncorp made a net profit of $574 million in the six months to December 31, up from $389 million in the previous corresponding period.

Of the big banks, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia was 43 cents, or 0.65 per cent higher, at $68.48 at 1043 AEDT.

Wall Street closed firmer, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 53.99 points, 0.39 per cent, to reach 14,035.75, its best level since October 12, 2007.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 11.12 points, or 0.73 per cent, to 1,530.91 - its strongest level since October 31, 2007 - and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite increased 21.56, 0.68 per cent, to 3,213.59.

National turnover at 1037 AEDT was 231.9 million securities worth $636.7 million.