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Australian Market Extends Winning Streak

The Australian stock market is rising for a third straight day on Thursday after the White House and Senate leaders in the U.S. agreed to a massive $2 trillion stimulus bill overnight to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Investors also digested announcements by local companies of COVID-19 related job losses and weak earnings.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 79.20 points or 1.58 percent to 5,077.30, after rising to a high of 5,129.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 89.30 points or 1.78 percent to 5,095.50. Australian stocks closed sharply higher on Wednesday amid a broad-based rally.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is rising more than 5 percent and Fortescue Metals is higher by more than 2 percent, while BHP is down 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are lower after safe-haven gold prices declined overnight. Evolution Mining is losing almost 4 percent and Newcrest Mining is down almost 1 percent.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank is higher by almost 1 percent, ANZ Banking is adding 0.3 percent and Westpac is edging up 0.1 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is declining more than 1 percent.

In the oil space, Oil Search is gaining more than 7 percent and Santos is rising 4 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is down 0.2 percent after crude oil prices rose about 2 percent overnight.

Virgin Australia said that more than 1,000 of the 8,000 workers asked to stand down from their jobs are likely to be made redundant. The airline's shares are gaining almost 10 percent.

Flight Centre Travel Group said an initial 6,000 of its sales and support staff globally will either be stood down or made redundant amid the coronavirus pandemic. The travel company's shares are rising more than 4 percent.

Brickworks reported that its statutory net profit for the first half of the year fell 49 percent amid a slowdown in building activity across Australia. The building materials maker's shares are gaining almost 7 percent.

The competition watchdog, the ACCC, has given approval to the proposed A$40 million merger of Australian Women's Weekly publisher Bauer Media and Pacific Magazines, the magazine arm of Seven West Media. Shares of Seven West Media are higher by almost 6 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar was lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.5905, compared to $0.6033 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed mixed on Wednesday after moving higher earlier in the session. The Dow held on to a strong gain partly due to a substantial advance by shares of Boeing and Nike. The late-day pullback came amid a dispute between Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and several Republican Senators that could delay a massive stimulus package. Sanders said he is prepared to put a hold on the legislation unless the GOP Senators drop their objections to fast-tracking the bill over a provision that would increase maximum unemployment benefits by $600 a week for four months.

While the Nasdaq fell 33.56 points or 0.5 percent to 7,384.30, the Dow surged up 495.64 points or 2.4 percent to 21,200.55 and the S&P 500 jumped 28.23 points or 1.2 percent to 2,475.56.

The major European markets also finished a volatile session showing strong moves to the upside on Wednesday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index both spiked by 4.5 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Wednesday, following a rally in gasoline futures due to a decline in weekly gasoline inventories. Optimism about the passage of the massive $2 trillion stimulus bill also contributed to oil's rise in the session. WTI crude for May ended up $0.48, or about 2 percent, at $24.49 a barrel.

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