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Australian Market Extending Gains

The Australian stock market is modestly higher on Wednesday, extending gains of the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just above the 6,900 level at six-week highs, following gains in technology, mining and energy stocks on the back of upbeat local data. However, the cues overnight from Wall Street were mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 45.70 points or 0.66 percent to 6,931.60, after touching a high of 6,932.70 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is higher by 46.60 points or 0.65 percent to 7,180.50. Australian stocks ended higher on Tuesday.

Among major miners, BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are all up almost 1 percent each.

In the tech space, Appen and WiseTech Global are gaining almost 1 percent, while Afterpay is up almost 4 percent.

Among the big four banks, ANZ Banking, Westpac and National Australia Bank are edging down 0.2 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is edging up 0.1 percent.

Westpac says its plan developed in response to a court-enforceable undertaking to submit an integrated plan for fixing risk governance problems has been approved by the banking regulator.

Gold miners are higher after the gold price climbed. Evolution Mining and Newcrest Mining are up almost 1 percent each, while Northern Star Resources is gaining more than 2 percent. Resolute Mining and Perseus mining are advancing more than 5 percent each.

Oil stocks are higher, with Oil Search and Santos adding almost 1 percent, while Woodside Petroleum is edging up 0.4 percent.

Shares in EML Payments are surging almost 9 percent following news it would be entering the European open banking market with the acquisition of Sentenial Limited and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, including its open banking product Nuapay.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in March, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics revealed on Wednesday with a services PMI score of 55.5. That's up from 53.4 in February, and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. The survey also showed that its composite index climbed to 55.5 in March as well - up from 53.7 a month earlier.

Further, the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association Australian Performance of Construction Index jumped 4.4 points to a record high of 61.8 in March. In February, the construction index had a score of 57.4.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.767 on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Tuesday following the rally seen in the previous session. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before eventually closing slightly lower.

While the Dow slipped 96.95 points or 0.3 percent to 33,430.24, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed just below the unchanged line. The Nasdaq edged down 7.21 points or 0.1 percent to 13,698.38 and the S&P 500 dipped 3.97 points or 0.1 percent to 4,073.94.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index surged up by 1.3 percent, the German DAX Index climbed by 0.8 percent and the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Tuesday, riding a weaker U.S. dollar. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for May ended higher by $0.68 or 1.2 percent at $59.33 a barrel.

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