SYDNEY, AAP – Australian shares traded firmly higher at noon on the back of solid gains in financial and mining stocks as local investors taking a cue from strong gains on Wall Street.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 36.5 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 7424.1 points at 1200 AEDT on Friday.

The All Ordinaries index rose 40.1 points, or 0.52 per cent, to 7747.6 points.

Investors sentiment globally has eased after reports that Omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalisation compared to previous coronavirus variants, and indications that both Merck’s and Pfizer’s COVID-19 anti-viral pills are effective against the variant.

It prompted US markets to rise overnight, with the S&P 500 climbing to a record close, while oil prices also lifted.

In the local market, gains on Christmas Eve were largely broad-based, led by the financials and materials sectors. Investors again shrugged of a steady rise in virus infections in the major states.

Financial stocks were led by a 7.5 per cent jump in AMP shares after the wealth management giant agreed to sell AMP Capital’s infrastructure debt division to US-based Ares Management for $428 million.

Each of the Big Four banks also traded around 0.5 per cent higher.

The big iron ore miners were all trading between 0.5 to 1.5 per cent higher although gold explorers lost some ground after the solid gains on Thursday. Lithium explorer Pilbara Minerals climbed nearly five per cent to a new record of $2.94.

Energy shares benefited from an overnight rally in oil prices. Santos and Woodside were up 1.3 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

Technology shares staged a turnaround, in line with the gains for the sector on Wall Street. Afterpay shares rose 1.8 per cent to $86.88 while Wisetech Global recovered 1.4 per cent to $59.50.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 72.37 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 71.17 US cents at Thursday’s close.