Australia stocks enjoyed across-the-board gains early Thursday, with the S&P/ASX up 1.1% after the first hour of trade, helped by firmer commodity prices and a strong overnight advance for U.S. shares. The financial stocks tracked the Wall Street rally, with advancers including Westpac Banking Corp. (up 1.8%), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (up 1.6%), Suncorp Group Ltd. (up 1.4%) and Insurance Australia Group Ltd. (up 2.5%). Further gains for iron-ore prices helped the relevent shares (Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. up 3.7%, Arrium Ltd. up 4.5%, Rio Tinto Ltd. up 1.8%), while a rise for oil futures did likewise for the energy names (Oil Search Ltd. up 3.4%, WorleyParsons Ltd. up 2.5%, Woodside Petroleum Ltd. up 1.3%). Shares of Ramsay Health Care Ltd. improved by 2.9% after the company reaffirmed its fiscal-year profit outlook and said it planned to expand its businesses. Gold miner Evolution Mining Ltd. outperformed its peers with a 4.1% gain on the back of a target-price increase by UBS, while BlueScope Steel Ltd. jumped 4.5% amid talk it may close its last remaining blast furnace at Australia's Port Kembla to save costs and focus more on downstream operations.
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