By Robb M. Stewart 
 

MELBOURNE, Australia--A Christmas Eve rally has pushed Australia's equities market to its highest close since the start of the month, buoyed by resources stocks as oil and other commodities recover some of this year's lost ground.

In a holiday-shortened trading day, the S&P/ASX 200 finished 65.8 points, or 1.3%, higher at 5207.6.

After seven straight gains, the index is at its highest level since Dec. 3, having advanced 2% for the week. Still, it remains down 3.8% in 2015.

The baskets of energy and materials stocks each rose by more than 3%, while the heavily-weighed financials sector gained 1.2%.

"Sentiment toward the commodity sector was helped by a surprisingly large drop in U.S. oil inventories last week as well as recent signalling from Chinese authorities that more stimulus is on the way," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, adding that the rally left some investors scrambling after finding themselves on the wrong side of recent moves in commodity prices and resources stocks.

Still, trading volumes have been thin all week in the run up to the holidays, and were about 50% below the 30-day average on Thursday, IG market analyst Angus Nicholson said.

Woodside Petroleum climbed 2.1%, Oil Search rose 3.8%, Santos added 2.7% and Origin Energy gained 6.2%.

Among mining shares, BHP Billiton jumped 5.3%, Rio Tinto was 4.4% higher and Fortescue Metals Group rose 5%.

The four largest banks were each up more than 1%, led by a 1.6% gain in Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

For the day, 1.1 billion shares valued at 2.14 billion Australian dollars (US$1.55 billion) were traded, Commonwealth Securities said.

 

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 23, 2015 22:58 ET (03:58 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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