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Australian Market Extends Gains

The Australian stock market is extending gains to a second day on Friday following the record closing highs overnight on Wall Street as U.S. lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory and on optimism a Democratic-controlled government will lead to additional stimulus.

Nevertheless, investors turned cautious as Australia's Queensland state declared a compulsory three-day lockdown from Friday evening after a case of the highly contagious UK variant of COVID-19 was detected in the state.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is advancing 17.50 points or 0.26 percent to 6,729.50, after touching a high of 6,739.70. The broader All Ordinaries Index is adding 17.90 points or 0.26 percent to 6,998.40. Australian shares closed notably higher on Thursday.

In the banking sector, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Banking are higher in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent, while Westpac is rising more than 1 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search is rising more than 2 percent, Woodside Petroleum is advancing more than 1 percent and Santos is adding almost 1 percent crude oil prices extended gains to a third session overnight.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is lower by almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto declining almost 1 percent and BHP Group is down 0.5 percent.

Gold miners are extending losses even as gold prices rebounded overnight. Evolution Mining is lower by 0.6 percent and Newcrest Mining is down 0.5 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record highs on Thursday as U.S. lawmakers certified President-elect Joe Biden's victory and as the Democrats won Georgia's Senate runoff elections, giving Democrats control of the House, Senate and the White House. Traders seem optimistic a Democratic-controlled government will lead to additional stimulus. Buying interest was also generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended January 2.

The Nasdaq spiked 326.69 points or 2.6 percent to 13,067.48, while the Dow climbed 211.73 points or 0.7 percent to 31,041.13 and the S&P 500 jumped 55.65 points or 1.5 percent to 3,803.79.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on Thursday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index is up by 0.7 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.8 percent.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Thursday, extending gains to a third straight session, with the recent data showing a drop in stockpiles continuing to support prices. WTI crude for February ended up $0.20 or about 0.4 percent at $50.83 a barrel.

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