SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s share market has risen to levels it’s rarely traversed and miners are flourishing after a bumper BHP interim dividend.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 36.4 points, or 0.52 per cent, to 6905.3 at 1200 AEDT.

The index has not closed at this level since February last year – the same month it set a record close of 7162.49.

The All Ordinaries on Tuesday was up 34.9 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 7184.6.

The materials sector, which includes miners, was up 1.69 per cent following BHP’s first-half earnings.

The top sector however was energy, higher by 1.83 per cent, as distribution of coronavirus vaccines promised to help demand for oil.

Industrials had a gain of 0.61 per cent, while the heavyweight financial sector was better by 0.32 per cent.

There was no trade in the US overnight due to the Presidents Day holiday but US futures were higher.

COVID-19 vaccines being supplied in many countries are raising hopes of further recovery in economic activities.

In Australia, Victoria recorded two new local cases of coronavirus from the outbreak at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

State leaders are yet to say whether its five-day lockdown will extend past Wednesday.

Meanwhile employment has recovered to where it was a year ago, continuing a rebound from last year’s recession caused by the pandemic.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show payroll jobs rose 1.3 per cent in the fortnight to January 30, with increases in almost every industry.

On the ASX, BHP delighted shareholders with a higher interim dividend of $US1.01 per share, up from US 65 cents in the previous corresponding period.

First-half profit fell 20 per cent after the resources group cut the value of its NSW coal assets, as it pivots toward a carbon-neutral future.

Bottom line net profit for the six months ended December was $US3.9 billion ($A5.0 billion), down from $US4.9 billion.

Shares were up 2.36 per cent to $46.83.

Fortescue rose 1.84 per cent to $24.88 while Rio Tinto jumped 3.35 per cent to $123.51.

National Australia Bank enjoyed a 47 per cent increase in cash earnings during its first quarter trading, helped by improving economic and health outcomes in Australia and New Zealand.

However in a first quarter trading update, CEO Ross McEwan said there were still uncertainties such as the impact of ongoing health alerts and measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Shares were better by 0.75 per cent to $25.48. Among other banks, ANZ rose 1.46 per cent to $25.59, the Commonwealth declined 1.19 per cent to $85.28 and Westpac gained 1.40 per cent to $22.71.

Home furnishings group Adairs plans to return millions of dollars in JobKeeper payments after a bumper first half.

The company made the announcement after reporting a huge 233 per cent-plus jump in net profit to $43.9 million for the first six months of 2020/21.

Adairs had collected $6.1 million from the government to retain and pay staff following the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares were lower by 1.19 per cent to $4.15.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.85 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 77.82 US cents at Monday’s close.