SYDNEY, AAP – Australia’s main share market index has climbed to rarely-visited heights – 7000 points – not seen since the days before the coronavirus crash.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 70.6 points, or 1.01 per cent, to 6998.6 at 1200 AEST.

The index rose as high as 7012.4 just after 1130 AEST, before easing.

The ASX200’s record high is 7197.2, set on February 20 last year, days before investors started a selling spree as the pandemic unfolded.

The All Ordinaries on Thursday was higher by 69.8 points, or 0.97 per cent, to 7247.2 points.

Almost all sectors were higher. The heavyweights of financials and materials were doing well, higher by 1.4 and 1.06 per cent respectively.

The smaller telecommunications sector was best, up 1.45 per cent.

US markets were little changed after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its most recent meeting that reinforced the central bank’s position to remain patient before raising rates.

Fed officials said it would likely take some time for substantial progress on goals of maximum employment and stable prices.

The S&P 500 rose 6.01 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4,079.95. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained the same percentage to 33,446.26. The Nasdaq composite slipped 9.54 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 13,688.84.

In Australia, regulator ASIC is suing Westpac, claiming it supplied consumer credit insurance to customers who had not asked for it.

ASIC wants Westpac to be fined for selling the products to hundreds of customers during three months in 2015.

The bank is yet to say whether it will defend the claims.

Shares were up 1.69 per cent to $25.26.

Westpac was best of the big four banks, while Bendigo rose 1.78 per cent to $10.29.

In mining, BHP was up 1.87 per cent to $46.74, Fortescue was higher by 1.51 per cent to $20.79 and Rio Tinto was better by 1.49 per cent to $115.14.

Investors in Westfield-owner Scentre Group served a ‘first strike’ on executives’ pay after company leaders produced a full-year loss and reduced final dividend.

Investors participating in the company’s annual general meeting cast a 51 per cent vote against executives’ remuneration, following pandemic-plagued results.

Stapled securities were higher by 0.86 per cent to $2.91.

Market giant CSL was up 0.54 per cent to $264.42.

In technology, Afterpay was better by 1.5 per cent to $120.26.

The Australian dollar was buying 76.10 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower from 76.46 US cents at Wednesday’s close.