SYDNEY, AAP – Santos and Oil Search will pursue a mega merger and shares in both companies were helping the Australian market higher.

The oil and gas providers have signed a merger deal for a $21 billion juggernaut having completed due diligence this week.

Should shareholders approve, Oil Search investors will receive 0.6275 Santos shares for each Oil Search one.

Oil Search stock on the ASX was up more than three per cent to $3.76 at 1200 AEST on Friday.

Santos shares were higher by 1.32 per cent to $6.11.

Energy shares were more than one per cent higher despite China saying it will release oil from its reserves.

Oil prices were lower as China said crude oil would be sold to the market to ease the pressure of high feedstock costs on domestic refiners.

Miners were the other main catalyst for the higher ASX and overcame lower iron ore prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 25.4 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 7394.9.

The All Ordinaries was up by 35.1 points, or 0.45 per cent, to 7694.

The market has rebounded somewhat after its equal biggest fall on Thursday since February.

In the US, the three main indices closed lower after weekly jobless claims fell to a near 18-month low.

The improvement in employment might allay fears of a slowing economy but also stoke worries the Federal Reserve could move sooner to scale back supportive policies.

Meanwhile the European Central Bank said it would slow emergency bond purchases started during the pandemic.

The bank also upgraded forecasts for inflation and growth as the economy comes to grips with COVID-19. The main rate was left on hold.

On the ASX, Fortescue was best of the big miners and gained 1.31 per cent to $18.04. BHP and Rio Tinto were better by less than one per cent.

In banking, the big four were all higher by less than half a per cent.

Smash repair group AMA will raise $150 million from investors to offset the effect of fewer cars on the road during the pandemic.

AMA Group is selling shares and convertible notes to professional and retail investors.

The company said the funds would also help liquidity and business growth.

Shares were paused from trading but last swapped for 42 cents.

Share market software vendor Iress has given potential suitor EQT Fund Management more time to assess a takeover.

Iress has allowed 10 more days to the 30 already granted for due diligence.

EQT has proposed buying all shares for $15.91 each.

Shares in Iress on the ASX were down 3.5 per cent to $13.50.

Uber-style courier provider Zoom2u has joined the ASX as part of efforts to expand overseas.

Shares were up 68.7 per cent to 33 cents after trading in the stock began at 1100 AEST.

Investors bought shares in the initial public offer for 20 cents each and raised $8 million.

The Australian dollar was buying 73.66 US cents at 1200 AEST, higher than 73.60 US cents at Thursday’s close.