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Australian Market Extends Gains

The Australian stock market is rising for a third straight day, with the benchmark index surging past the 7,000 level for the first time, following the mostly positive cues overnight from Wall Street after the U.S. and China signed a long-awaited phase one trade deal.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 35.20 points or 0.50 percent to 7030.00, off a record high of 7,041.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 33.70 points or 0.47 percent to 7,147.20. Australian stocks hit fresh record highs on Wednesday.

In the tech sector, Wisetech Global is gaining almost 4 percent, Appen is higher by more than 2 percent and Xero is rising more than 1 percent.

Gold miners are also higher after gold prices rose overnight. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are advancing more than 1 percent each.

The big four banks - Westpac Banking, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank - are advancing in a range of 0.6 percent to 0.8 percent.

Meanwhile, the major miners are weak. BHP is declining 0.4 percent, Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.3 percent and Rio Tinto is down 0.2 percent.

Oil stocks are also mostly lower after crude oil prices declined to a six-week low overnight. Santos is losing more than 1 percent and Oil Search is lower by 0.2 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is advancing almost 1 percent.

Caltex Australia said it has reached an agreement with Alimentation Couche-Tard to provide confidential information that will allow the Canadian convenience store chain to formulate a revised takeover proposal appropriately reflecting the value of Caltex. The fuel retailer's shares are edging up 0.1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see November numbers for home loans today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.6904, up from $0.6896 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks saw early strength on Wednesday as traders awaited the signing of the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China. However, stocks pulled back after President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Beijing's chief trade negotiator, officially signed the agreement in a ceremony at the White House. Trump said the deal calls for China to purchase $200 billion worth of U.S. goods over the next two years, including up to $50 billion worth of agricultural products.

The Dow climbed 90.55 points or 0.3 percent to 29,030.22 and the S&P 500 rose 6.14 points or 0.2 percent to 3,289.29, but the Nasdaq pulled back near the unchanged line before closing down 0.41 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 9,250.92.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices settled at a six-week low on Wednesday after data showed a notable increase in gasoline and distillate stockpiles in the week ended January 10. WTI crude for February delivery fell $0.42 or about 0.7 percent to $57.81 a barrel.

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