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Australian Market Modestly Higher

The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Friday after U.S. stocks rose for the fifth straight session overnight and as investors digested better-than-expected Australian retail sales data for November.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 8.10 points or 0.14 percent to 5,803.40, after rising to a high of 5,805.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 9.70 points or 0.17 percent to 5,863.60. Australian stocks closed modestly higher on Thursday.

In the retail sector, JB Hi-Fi is rising more than 2 percent, Wesfarmers is higher by more than 1 percent and Harvey Norman is adding 0.3 percent after the release of the November retail sales data.

Oil stocks advanced after crude oil prices rose overnight for the ninth straight session. Santos is up 0.1 percent, Woodside Petroleum is adding 0.2 percent and Oil Search is rising 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are also mostly weak as copper prices declined overnight. BHP Group is losing almost 1 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.7 percent, while Fortescue Metals is adding 0.4 percent.

Gold miner Evolution Mining is losing more than 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by almost 1 percent after a decline in gold prices.

The big four banks are mixed. ANZ Banking is edging up 0.1 percent and National Australia Bank is advancing almost 1 percent, while Westpac is down 0.2 percent and Commonwealth Bank is declining 0.1 percent.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the value of retail sales in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent on month in November, coming in at A$27.115 billion. That exceeded expectations for an increase of 0.3 percent, which would have been unchanged from the October reading.

Australia will also see December results for the Performance of Construction Index from the Australian Industry Group today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is flat against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7184, unchanged from Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed higher on Thursday for the fifth consecutive session after seeing initial weakness as assessments of trade talks between the U.S. and China showed no significant breakthroughs. A statement from the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the meetings were held as part of an agreement between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to engage in 90 days of negotiations with a view to achieving needed structural changes in China.

The Dow advanced 122.80 points or 0.5 percent to 24,001.92, the Nasdaq rose 28.99 points or 0.4 percent to 6,986.07 and the S&P 500 climbed 11.68 points or 0.5 percent to 2,596.64.

The major European markets ended mixed on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 Index dipped by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Thursday, extending gains to a ninth successive session, with recent reports showing declines in crude output from OPEC and other major producers. WTI crude added $0.23 or 0.4 percent to close at $52.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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