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Australian shares follow US into positive territory

Australian markets followed the US lead overnight and opened stronger with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.37 per cent as we approach midday.

Australian shares were buoyed by the US Fed guidance for three rate cuts this year, signalling the end of the tightening bias.

The SPI futures are pointing to a rise of 50 points.

Gold stocks rallied as the gold price surged to a record high $US2224 an ounce in morning trading with local gold miners Northern Star rising 3.4 per cent to $13.85 and Evolution rising 4.4 per cent to $3.45.

Australian employment rose by a stronger than expected 116,500 in February versus a consensus expectation of 40,000. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 per cent.

In company news, Australian Strategic Minerals (ASX:ASM) rose over 20 per cent in morning trading pushing the stock up over 40% in two days after the Company said the US government may fund its rare earths project with debt of up to $600 million.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector is REITs [XPJ], up 1.22 per cent. The worst-performing sector is Utilities [XUJ], down 0.59 per cent.

The best-performing large cap is Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN), trading 5.0 per cent higher at $3.465. It is followed by shares in Newmont Corporation (ASX:NEM) and Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST).

The worst-performing large cap is IGO (ASX:IGO), trading 2.9 per cent lower at $7.36. It is followed by shares in Mercury NZ (ASX:MCY) and Meridian Energy (ASX:MEZ).

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$2224.60 an ounce.
Iron ore is 1.3 per cent lower at US$106.50 a tonne.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a 0.1 per cent fall.
One Australian dollar is buying 66.11 US cents.