SYDNEY, AAP – Shares on the Australian market were more than half a per cent higher, while the domestic economy is showing more progress as the unemployment rate drops.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was higher by 42.7 points, or 0.63 per cent, to 6813.1 at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries was higher by 44.4 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 7095.4.

Most sectors were higher. The heavyweight financial and materials sectors climbed 0.97 per cent and 0.50 per cent respectively.

Information technology was the standout, up 2.77 per cent.

The Australian unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 per cent in December as another 50,000 people found jobs in the month.

Economists had forecast the jobless rate to ease to 6.7 per cent from 6.8 per cent in November.

There appeared to be little benefit for the Aussie dollar, which continued to buy about 77 US cents.

The ASX indices were helped earlier by US markets, with stocks closing at record highs as 46th President Joe Biden was sworn in.

The new president wasted little time moving on from the Trump era and signed 15 executive actions ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to the economy to climate change.

The key agenda item for investors is the $US1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan, which must still be approved by Congress.

On the ASX, Afterpay reached a record high of $149.77, then eased to be better by 5.81 per cent to $149.20.

Electric battery researcher Novonix jumped 24.03 per cent to $2.58 after a subsidiary won a $US5.57 million ($7.1 million) US government grant to better produce lithium-ion batteries.

The subsidiary, PUREgraphite, will work with other companies on the multi-year furnace technology, which could help its manufacturing of battery materials in the US.

Novonix shares have already surged this week after the company hired a professor working with electric vehicle maker Tesla.

Buy now pay later provider Zip sprung by 10.86 per cent to $6.63 after it claimed an 88 per cent rise in revenue for the December quarter on the same 2019 period to $102 million.

The company’s US business, QuadPay, had a 207 per cent revenue rise to $47.6 million.

Wealth manager Netwealth surged 10.52 per cent to $17.54 after it said funds under administration rose 36.1 per cent for the December quarter, or $10.3 billion, compared to the same period in 2019. Netwealth has funds under administration of $38.8 billion.

The company raised the amount of net inflows expected for funds under administration this financial year to between $8.5 billion to $9 billion, having previously advised $8 billion.

Meanwhile director Tim Antonie will replace chair Jane Tongs, who will retire next month.

Woodside Energy fell 0.51 per cent to $27.26 after its production guidance for the financial year was lower than that of the previous one.

The company said it would produce between 90 and 95 million barrels of oil equivalent across its liquid natural gas, liquids including oil, gas and liquefied petroleum gas. This was down from the 100.3 million barrels of oil equivalent produced over the previous 12 months.

Earlier in the US, the S&P 500 rose 52.94 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 3,851.85. The Dow gained 257.86 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 31,188.38. The Nasdaq climbed 260.07 points, or 2.0 per cent, to 13,457.25.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.58 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 77.29 US cents at Wednesday’s close.