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Australian Market Marginally Higher

The Australian stock market is marginally higher on Monday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,000 mark, as strong local manufacturing PMI data and easing long term bond yields boosted banking stocks. Trader will also focus on the Reserve Bank of Australia monetary policy decision due Tuesday. However, the cues from Wall Street on Friday were broadly negative.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is gaining 24.80 points or 0.35 percent to 7,050.60, after touching a high of 7,068.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 19.50 points or 0.27 percent to 7,310.20. Australian stocks closed significantly lower on Friday.

Among the major miners, BHP Group is edging down 0.5 percent, while Mineral Resources is gaining more than 1 percent, Rio Tinto is inching up 0.2 percent and Fortescue Metals is up almost 1 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices tumbled. Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Santos are losing almost 1 percent each.

The big four banks are higher. National Australia Bank is gaining almost 2 percent, Westpac is adding more than 4 percent, ANZ Banking is up more than 1 percent and Commonwealth Bank is rising almost1 percent.

Westpac's half-year profits rebounded to soar 256 percent from the same period last year to $3.5 billion, higher than the $3.3 billion expected by analysts. The bank also said it will pay a 58 cent interim dividend after scrapping last year's payout. It also announced a major plan to slash its cost base by more than $2 billion over the next three years.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is losing almost 1 percent and WiseTech Global is down almost 3 percent, while Appen is inching up 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are flat, while Star Resources is gaining more than 1 percent.

In economic news, the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in April, and at a faster pace, the latest survey from Markit Economics revealed on Monday with a survey record manufacturing PMI score of 59.7. That's up from 56.8 in March and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

Separately, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Monday that the manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in April, and at a faster pace, with a Performance of Manufacturing Index score of 61.7. That's up from 59.9 in March and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.773 on Monday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly lower during trading on Friday, giving back ground following the advance seen in the previous session. The tech-heavy Nasdaq staged a recovery attempt in morning trading but quickly rejoined the Dow and S&P 500 in the red.

The major averages all closed firmly in negative territory. The Dow slid 185.51 points or 0.5 percent to 33,874.85, the Nasdaq dropped 119.87 points or 0.9 percent to 13,962.68 and the S&P 500 fell 30.30 points or 0.7 percent to 4,181.17.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.5 percent.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Friday, coming off six-week highs as worries about energy demand resurfaced amid a continued surge in coronavirus cases in Asia. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for June ended down $1.43 or 2.2 percent at $63.58 a barrel.

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