UPDATE 8am: The Australian sharemarket is higher after Wall Street rose sharply on better-than-expected housing and consumer confidence data.
At 7.19am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 30.3 points, or 0.61 per cent, at 5033.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 29 points, or 0.58 per cent, to 5050.8 points.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 45 points at 5023 points, with 9411 contracts traded.
“We did see a massive turnaround in US trade, triggered mainly by some better than expected economic data, with consumer sentiment coming in much stronger than expected,” said IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu.
“Especially with (US Federal Reserve Chairman) Dr Ben Bernanke coming out with that testimony (to Congress), that really calmed investors' nerves about quantitative easing. It certainly seems like we've got some positive momentum behind us.”
Locally, shopping centre developer Westfield Group said its annual profit had grown 18 per cent thanks to increased income from its centres across the world.
Its shares gained 12 cents, or 1.08 per cent, to $11.20.
Building products group James Hardie's stocks were also up 12 cents, or 1.28 per cent, to $9.47 at 7.33am despite it saying it had trimmed its earnings forecast for the year due to an uncertain housing market.
Meanwhile, AGL Energy put on 56 cents, or 3.69 per cent, to $15.75 after the company posted a first half profit rise to $365 million helped by its acquisition of a major Victorian power plant.
But, engineering firm UGL fell 48 cents, or 4.4 per cent, to $10.42 after it announced a 53 per cent slump in first half profit due to $25 million restructure costs.
Mr Shamu said the four major banks were under some pressure but were still performing better than the resources sector.
“We're seeing a little bit of stress there. Not as much as in the cyclical space where we've really seen those stocks beaten down over last few days,” said Mr Shamu.
“They've underperformed, the yield players, for a while. So, when we see a risk recovery, chances are we'll probably see a bit more strength in the miners and the mining services companies compared to everywhere else.”
Of the banks, ANZ was up eight cents, or 0.28 per cent, to $28.24; the Commonwealth Bank gained 58 cents, or 0.89 per cent, to $66.05; NAB put on 12 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $30.07; and Westpac climbed 10 cents, or 0.33 per cent, to $30.33.
But the major miners also gained.
BHP Billiton lifted 22 cents, or 0.61 per cent, to $36.57, and Rio Tinto was up 50 cents, or 0.76 per cent, to $66.07.National turnover was 388.57 million securities worth $536.94 million.