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Australian Market Advances

The Australian stock market is trading higher on Wednesday, with investors betting on expectations of some strong earnings reports, following a good show by the U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa in the December quarter.

Consumer staples, financials, healthcare, information technology and property trusts stocks are edging higher, while mining and energy stocks are mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is up 17.8 points or 0.4 percent at 4,708. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading at 4,730, up 17.7 points or 0.4 percent from its previous close.

Among bank stocks, National Australia Bank is up nearly a percent, Westpac (WBK) is adding 0.8 percent and Commonwealth Bank of Australia is up marginally, while ANZ Bank is trading slightly weak. Bendigo & Adelaide and Bank of Queensland are trading modestly higher.

Among top miners, BHP Billiton (BHP, BBL) and Rio Tinto (RIO) are trading flat.

Shares of U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa's joint venture partner Alumina (AWC) are up nearly 6 percent. After trading hours on Tuesday, Alcoa had reported a better than expected surge in earnings and raised its earnings guidance.

Carsales.com is up nearly 3 percent. Mirvac Group is adding 2.5 percent. Flight Centre, Caltex Australia, Qantas Airways, Aristocrat Leisure and Sucorp Group are trading higher by 1.5 to 2 percent.

Bluescope Steel, CFS Retail Property Trust, Amcor, Westfield Group, Primary Healthcare and Goodman Group are also trading notably higher.

Myer Holdings is trading lower by more than 3 percent. Harvey Norman Holdings is down with a loss of 2.3 percent and Toll Holdings is down nearly 2 percent. Origin Energy, PanAust and Oz Minerals are also trading notably lower.

In economic news, Australian retail spending fell 0.1 per cent in November, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retail trade fell in the month to a seasonally adjusted A$21.53 billion, compared to a downwardly revised A$21.55 billion in October, the bureau said.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand are trading modestly higher. Singapore and South Korea are up marginally, while Japan and Taiwan are trading weak.

On Wall Street, stocks ended weak on Tuesday, with traders expressing uncertainty about the upcoming earnings season. Profit taking after last week's gains too contributed to the lower close.

The major averages climbed well off their worst levels of the day but remained stuck in negative territory. The Dow declined 55.4 points or 0.4 percent to 13,328.8, the Nasdaq dipped 7 points or 0.2 percent to 3,091.8 and the S&P 500 slid 4.7 points or 0.3 percent to 1,457.2.

Major European markets ended mixed on Tuesday. While the French CAC 40 index closed just above the unchanged line, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index and the German DAX index ended lower by 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

U.S. crude oil advanced toward a four-month high, but gave up gains and ended lower on Tuesday. Crude for February delivery ended down $0.04 at $93.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after very nearly breaching the $94 a barrel mark.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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