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Aussie stocks take cautious start but in box seat for strongest weekly gain

Xinhua, March 4, 2016 Adjust font size:

Aussie shares have taken a cautious start to trade on Friday as continuing risk appetite sees the local banks surge, pointing the index onto its largest weekly rise for the year.

At 1010 local time (AEDT), the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 6.9 points, or 0.14 percent, at 5,088.0, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 7.6 points, or 0.15 percent, at 5,149.8.

The local market is taking its lead from late gains on the Wall street following the strong U.S. ISM non-manufacturing data that wiped the alarming flash Markit services PMI last week.

"U.S. data continues to shine, oil continues to firm and risk appetite is coming back into all aspects of the markets although a note of dissonance is being struck by continued strength in the safe-haven assets of gold," IG market analyst Angus Nicholson said.

"Nonetheless, it is looking like another positive day in Asia."

At the open on Friday, ANZ was up 1.25 percent, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 1.20 percent, the National Australia Bank had added 1.37 percent and Westpac lifted 0.74 percent.

BHP Billiton shrugged off a two-notch credit downgrade to rise 1.39 percent, however rival Rio Tinto had slipped 0.02 percent but subsequently firmed, while gold miner Newcrest surged 3.15 percent.

Oil Search dipped 2.08 percent, Woodside Petroleum was down 0.41 percent, however Santos gained 1.36 percent.

Wesfarmers edged 0.12 percent higher, Woolworths dropped 0.49 percent as the local "supermarket wars" heat up.

Telstra was 0.69 percent stronger, Qantas weakened by 0.78 percent following news Qatar Airways is to launch a daily direct Sydney to Doha service. Endit