Australian stocks started solidly higher Tuesday, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 1.3%, catching up with global stock gains after falling 1.3% a day earlier despite gains for the rest of the region. While further weakness in iron-ore prices had helped lead Sydney lower Monday, yet another drop for the commodity on Tuesday was offset by a rally overnight on Wall Street and signs of fresh stimulus in China, Australia's top trading partner. Dow Jones Newswires also cited traders as saying they expected a strong session on the last day of the quarter. Among the miners, BHP Billiton Ltd. rose 2.9%, Rio Tinto Ltd. gained 2.3%, Oz Minerals Ltd. added 2.7%, and even Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. managed a 1% gain despite the ongoing retreat for spot iron ore. The heavily weighted bank stocks saw respectible gains (Westpac Banking Corp. up 1.1%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia up 0.9%, National Australia Bank Ltd. up 0.7%), though some caution was likely as reports said the odds of an April interest-rate cut from the Reserve Bank of Australia were rising. Energy stocks were also mostly higher, as benchmark Nymex crude fell but Brent North Sea crude managed a mild rebound. Oil Search Ltd. edged up just 0.1% despite scoring a buy recommendation from Morgans, while Caltex Australia Ltd. rose 1.3% -- paring losses from a day earlier after Chevron Corp. sold off its stake in the company -- and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. added 1.2%. Retailers also improved (Wesfarmers Ltd. up 1.3%, Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. up 1.4%), as did media stocks (Fairfax Media Ltd. up 2.7%, Seven Group Holdings Ltd. up 1.3%).
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