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Resources push shares higher

The stockmarket was higher at noon on Wednesday, boosted by stronger resources, gold and banking stocks

The stockmarket was higher at noon on Wednesday, boosted by stronger resources, gold and banking stocks.

CMC Markets market analyst David Land said the local bourse had taken some heart from the American market overnight, despite its rather benign lead.

"We're seeing a bounce off Tuesday's ordinary form," Mr Land said.

"There was a relatively positive lead from the United States - more importantly, in this current volatile environment, it wasn't a negative lead.

"The release of negative pressure has allowed a bit of a bounce to occur."

Mr Land said mining stocks had firmed in the wake of resources giant BHP Billiton reaching an agreement with Chinese steel producers for a 19 per cent increase in iron ore product prices.

At noon, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 43.1 points at 4904.5, while the All Ordinaries added 40 points to 4870.8.

BHP Billiton was up 70 cents at $26.86, Rio Tinto lifted $1.49 to $74.94 and Zinifex gained 28 cents to $8.98. Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum advanced 15 cents to $41.10 and Santos put on 23 cents at $11.38.

In the United States, strong housing data cooled fears about slowing economic growth, while in London stocks ended higher as big oil companies rose on improving crude oil futures.

But US markets were mixed with the S&P500 down 0.02 points to 1240.12, the Dow Jones up 32.73 points to 10,974.84 and the Nasdaq off 3.36 points to 2107.06. In London, the FTSE 100 closed at 5658.2, up 32.1 points.

Back home, in the banking sector, the National Australia Bank strengthened 47 cents to $33.80, the Commonwealth Bank ascended 58 cents to $41.98, the ANZ lifted 20 cents to $25.49 and Westpac found 22 cents at $22.07.

Australia's biggest investment bank, Macquarie Bank, rose 27 cents to $65.32 after it confirmed it had been in talks with PCCW over a possible acquisition of some of the Hong Kong telco's core assets.

Among gold stocks, Newmont picked up 9 cents at $6.70, Newcrest jumped 35 cents to $19.15 and Lihir surged 10 cents to $2.77. The price of gold in Sydney was $US577.50 per fine ounce, up $US5.70 on Tuesday's close.

In the media sector, Ten Network fell 7 cents to $2.77 as it said weaker-than-expected advertising revenue had sliced earnings.

But the Seven Network gained 25 cents to $8.10 after it sold its interest in Melbourne's Telstra Dome to James Fielding Funds Management for about $330 million.

Among other stocks in the news, Qantas was down 9 cents to $3.09 after it forecast that its profits would fall by more than a quarter in 2005/06 amid record high fuel prices.

Among blue chips, Telstra rose 3 cents to $3.67 and retailer Coles Myer gained 8 cents to $11.44 and blood products and vaccine maker CSL was up 95 cents to $50.98 after confirming its 2005/06 earnings guidance ahead of a payment linked to the acquisition of Aventis Behring.

Finally, energy group Australian Gas Light Company edged up 1 cent to $17.90 after acquiring a 50 per cent stake in the Moranbah Gas Project from BHP Billiton for $US68.7 million ($93 million).