Miners lead ASX higher mid-session

Australian stocks were higher mid-session, extending gains from the open with the big miners leading the broader market higher.

At 9.35am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 31.2 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 4679.2 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index has risen 30.2 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 4691.6 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 32 points at 4660 points, with 9588 contracts traded.

The Australian market opened up about 0.5 per cent higher, pushing towards new highs, as traders welcomed higher iron ore prices in offshore trade.

The local market posted its highest close in 17 months at the end of yesterday's Australian trading day with gains for the month nearly four per cent, the highest since last January.

US stocks had a rollercoaster ride overnight driven by speculation in social media about whether or not the White House and Congress would reach a compromise by their New Year's Eve deadline on how to avert the "fiscal cliff".

Wall St closed about 0.10 per cent lower but recovered from lows of more than one per cent.

The "cliff" refers to harsh tax hikes and drastic budget cuts to arrest the country's budget gap but could tip the economy into recession.

The Australian market was taking its own lead, Commsec market analyst Steve Daghlian said.

"It is quite impressive but volumes are extremely light so despite the gains it can't be taken too seriously," he told AAP.

The value of shares traded was less than $660 million at midday, about half the value normally traded.

The major miners were all higher the iron ore price climbed three per cent overnight to $US139.40 ($A134.95).

Rio Tinto gained 95 cents, or 1.45 per cent, to $66.40, BHP Billiton was 37 cents, or 1.0 per cent, firmer at $37.36 and Fortescue Metals had put on six cents, or 1.32 per cent, to $4.59.

Retailers were in green figures the day after the Boxing Day sales.

JB Hi-Fi was 20 cents, or 1.95 per cent, higher at $10.46, Myer was one cent firmer at $2.14 and David Jones had advanced one cent to $2.42.

National turnover was 402 million securities worth $658.3 million, with 438 stocks up, 225 down and 273 unchanged.

The West Australian

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