Australia Stocks Rally On Financials, Rio Tinto News

Australian stocks shrugged off a mixed lead from Wall Street to trade solidly higher Wednesday morning, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.9%, erasing the previous day's 0.5% pullback. Strength in the financials helped support the gains (Westpac Banking Corp. up 1.3%, Insurance Australia Group Ltd. up 2%), as did a 2.4% advance for senior miner Rio Tinto Ltd. amid news of a fresh merger attempt from Glencore . Rio rival BHP Billiton Ltd. added 1.4%, though fresh punishment for iron-ore spot prices slapped Arrium Ltd. 2% lower and Atlas Iron Ltd. down 1.5%. Energy shares were mixed despite Nymex crude futures closing at a four-year low. An upbeat report from Karoon Gas Australia Ltd. on its Kangaroo-2 offshore appraisal well in Brazil sent Karoon shares surging 8.8%, but Santos Ltd. got little joy from its update on its GLNG project, with its shares down 0.3%. Still, the weakness in energy helped to deliver another boost to Qantas Airways Ltd. , which rose 3.2%. And shares of Medibank Private Ltd. , which fell 3.6% on its trading debut Tuesday, slipped another 0.2%.

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