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Australian Market Continues Winning Streak

The Australian stock market is extending gains to a fourth day on Friday following the overnight gains on Wall Street after the U.S. Senate finally voted to approve a massive $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The news offset negative sentiment after a report by the U.S. Labor Department that showed first-time claims for unemployment benefits soared last week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 66.90 points or 1.31 percent to 5,180.20, after rising to a high of 5,236.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is rising 73.30 points or 1.43 percent to 5,208.50. Australian stocks closed higher for a third straight day on Thursday.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is advancing more than 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is adding 0.2 percent, while BHP is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the banking sector, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are rising more than 2 percent each, while Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are adding more than 1 percent each.

In the oil space, Oil Search is climbing more than 9 percent, Woodside Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent and Santos is adding 0.5 percent, even as crude oil prices tumbled overnight.

Woodside Petroleum said it will cut spending by 50 percent and defer investment decisions on major projects amid the uncertain economic climate due to the spread of COVID-19. The company also lowered its earnings outlook for fiscal 2020.

Bucking the trend, gold miners are lower even as safe-haven gold prices advanced overnight. Evolution Mining is losing more than 3 percent and Newcrest Mining is down 0.4 percent.

Woolworths Group said it will create 20,000 new jobs to meet a surge in demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, joining rival Coles Group which earlier this month said it would add 5,000 jobs. The supermarket chain's shares are down 0.6 percent.

Shares of Adairs are gaining more than 8 percent after the homewares trader said it will temporarily close stores in Australia for four to six weeks after trade on Sunday.

Kathmandu Holdings, which has about 170 stores in Australia as well as New Zealand, and more than 100 Rip Curl stores, also said it will shut stores and stand down about 2,000 workers without pay for four weeks due to COVID-19. The clothing chain's shares are rising almost 3 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar was higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6056, compared to $0.5914 on Thursday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply higher on Thursday even though the Labor Department released a report before the start of trading showing first-time claims for unemployment benefits soared to 3.28 million last week from 282,000 in the prior week, as large swaths of the U.S. economy were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Any negative sentiment seemed to have been offset by news that the Senate finally voted to approve a massive $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow spiked 1,351.62 points or 6.4 percent to 22,552.17, the Nasdaq soared 413.24 points or 5.6 percent to 7,797.54 and the S&P 500 skyrocketed 154.51 points or 6.2 percent to 2,630.07.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned positive over the course of the session on Thursday. While the German DAX Index jumped by 1.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 2.2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices declined sharply and closed lower on Thursday for the first time in four sessions, as concerns about outlook for energy demand weighed on the commodity. WTI crude for May ended down $1.89 or about 7.7 percent at $22.60 a barrel.

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