Some of the biggest names on the Australian share market were helping the indices higher, following a good lead from Wall Street on COVID-19 vaccine progress.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was up 47.8 points, or 0.71 per cent, to 6735.5 at 1200 AEDT on Wednesday.
The All Ordinaries gained 48.7 points, or 0.70 per cent, to 6970.9.
The market is on course for its seventh consecutive day of gains.
Healthcare was the top sector, up 2.25 per cent, after CSL gained 2.57 per cent to $305.24.
The rise follows a clinical trial of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, to be manufactured by CSL, which found the vaccine was generally safe.
Financials and materials had rises of about half a per cent.
Wall Street markets closed higher after Pfizer cleared the next hurdle in the race to get its COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in the US.
The step comes after the UK began providing Pfizer’s vaccine to residents to help end a pandemic that has killed 1.5 million people.
After markets closed, US President Donald Trump’s administration offered a $US916 billion package to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would send a $US600 direct payment to most Americans.
The nation is keen for stimulus to help its economy, which has been hit hard by the virus.
The stimulus proposal helped keep US futures trade higher.
In Australia, consumer confidence has struck a 10-year high, buoyed by signs of economic recovery from the pandemic.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index jumped a further 4.1 per cent in December to 122.
Other consumer and business confidence measures released this week have also been buoyant.
On the ASX, the Commonwealth Bank was up 1.87 per cent to $83.34 after revealing it will receive more than first anticipated from selling its stake in a Chinese life insurance provider.
The bank said it would receive $886 million from the sale of its stake in BoCommLife to MS&AD Insurance, after Chinese regulators approved the deal.
In 2018, bank officials expected to receive $668 million.
Among big banks, ANZ lost 0.08 per cent to $23.38, NAB rose 0.3 per cent to $23.38 and Westpac slipped 0.09 per cent to $20.12.
In mining, Fortescue Metals said it had mined the first iron ore from its Eliwana mine and rail project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The company is also having its investor day on Wednesday.
Shares were up 0.88 per cent to $21.65.
Rio Tinto is expected to come under criticism in a federal parliamentary report on Wednesday for the miner’s destruction of the sacred Juukan Gorge caves in Western Australia.
The Northern Australia Committee will hand down its interim report into the blast, having considered more than 140 submissions and evidence from industry stakeholders and Indigenous groups.
Shares lost 0.1 per cent to $114.90.
BHP gained 0.59 per cent to $42.50, while South32 rose 1.35 per cent to $2.62.
Earlier in the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 147.64 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 30,217.43, the S&P 500 gained 13.89 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 3,705.85 and the Nasdaq Composite added 64.07 points, or 0.51 per cent to 12,584.01.
The Aussie dollar was buying 74.14 US cents at 1200 AEDT, down from 74.25 US cents at Tuesday’s close.