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Australian Market Advances

The Australian stock market is advancing on Friday, tracking the overnight gains on Wall Street amid positive developments on the U.S.-China trade front and following the European Central Bank's announcement that it will resume its quantitative easing program. Banks and the major miners are among the leading gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 17.30 points or 0.26 percent to 6,672.20, after touching a high of 6,673.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 16.90 points or 0.25 percent to 6,782.60. Australian stocks eked out modest gains on Thursday.

The major miners are higher. Fortescue Metals is higher by 0.5 percent, BHP Billiton is adding 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto is rising 0.2 percent.

The big four banks are also advancing. ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are higher in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.8 percent.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining is declining 2 percent and Evolution Mining is losing almost 2 percent even as gold prices rose overnight.

In the oil space, Woodside Petroleum is declining 0.4 percent, Santos is lower by 0.3 percent and Oil Search is edging down 0.1 percent, after crude oil prices fell overnight for a third straight session.

CIMIC Group's subsidiary Thiess has won a A$1.3 billion six-year contract extension to provide mining services to Queensland's Curragh coalmine. However, shares of CIMIC Group are losing more than 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6861, compared to $0.6883 on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Thursday, but managed to close modestly higher. A report from Bloomberg News said Trump administration officials have discussed offering an interim trade agreement to China. However, stocks gave back ground after a senior White House official told CNBC the U.S. is "absolutely not" considering an interim trade deal. Positive sentiment was also generated in reaction to the European Central Bank's monetary policy decision, with the ECB cutting rates and announcing a massive new bond-buying program.

The Dow edged up 45.41 points or 0.1 percent to 27,182.45, the Nasdaq climbed 24.79 points or 0.3 percent to 8,194.47 and the S&P 500 rose 8.64 points or 0.3 percent to 3,009.57.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday following the ECB announcement. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both rose 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures ended lower on Thursday, extending losses to a third straight session, weighed down by a downward revision in OPEC's oil demand forecast and speculation that the U.S. may ease sanctions on Iran. WTI crude for October ended down $0.66 or about 1.2 percent at $55.09 a barrel.

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