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Energy, resource stocks lift Aust shares

Investor demand for energy and resource companies, including Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search, are driving Australian shares higher in early trade.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 0.22 per cent at 5,665.8 points at 1032 AEDT, mimicking gains on Wall Street overnight.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said energy companies were leading the local gains as OPEC cut production.

"It is happening so people are sort of taking that as an actual structural change, rather than a fluctuation in stock piling that we've seen," he said.

The mining sector also found support, with Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals expected to benefit from higher commodity prices when they report interim earnings, Mr Lucas said.

"First-half numbers are looking much more attractive than they probably did June last year and this time last year," he said.

The financial sector is also in positive territory, with all of the nation's big four banks higher.

The Australian interim earnings season is getting underway, with engineering group Downer EDI posting a 8.5 per cent rise in net profit. It shares rose more than 15 per cent.

But Tabcorp shares fell four per cent after the gaming giant reported a 28 per cent drop in first-half profit.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.14 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.50 per cent after the US Federal Reserve kept interest rates on hold, in-line with market expectations.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was trading at 75.81 US cents, up from 75.63 US cents at Wednesday's close.

ON THE ASX:

* At 1032 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 12.6 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 5,665.8 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 12.3 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 5,716.3 points.

* The March SPI200 futures contract was up 14 points, or 0.25 per cent, at 5,613 points with 10,783 contracts traded.

* National turnover was 586.6 million securities traded worth $699 million.

CURRENCY UPDATE:

* The local currency is trading higher at 75.81 US cents, from 75.67 US cents at Wednesday's close.