Stock market indices
A pedestrian holding her mobile phone looks at an electronic board showing graphs of various countries' stock market indices outside a brokerage in Tokyo July 22, 2014. Reuters

 Australian shares surged despite a substantial fall in market activity (volume). The ASX 200 Index extended earlier gains to finish 1.5 per cent firmer by close; finishing at intraday highs.

 All sectors improved this afternoon with the miners improving by 2.5 per cent and recording the day's most substantial gains. Australia's biggest miner BHP Billiton (BHP) gained by 2.5 per cent but has still slumped by 4 per cent in December. Despite improvements from Fortescue Metals (FMG) and Rio Tinto (RIO) - both stocks have slumped so far this month following continued commodity price weakness.

 Commonwealth Bank (CBA) cracked through all-time record highs this afternoon of $86.11 and closed at $86.05.

 Telstra (TLS) broke through $6/share for just the second time in 13.5 years, closing at $6.02.

 Sydney Airport (SYD) fell by 1.9 per cent after trading ex-dividend. The airport operator traded ex-dividend for its 12cps dividend due to be paid to investors on 12 February.

 Property trusts recovered this afternoon to finish 0.5 per cent firmer. The outperforming sector was the only loser earlier in the day.

 No major economic news was released in Australia or the region today. The weekly update on petrol prices released by the Australian Institute of Petroleum each Monday is on hold until next week. Wholesale prices are continuing to fall however; dropping 2.6c/litre to 111.9c/l last week. This should keep unleaded petrol prices around four-year lows for now. CommSec's Chief Economist Craig James said that "Petrol retail marketing groups have largely passed on the substantial savings to motorists flowing from the fall in global oil prices."

 Volume remained very light today as expected. Only 944.6m shares were traded worth just $2.6bn. 586 stocks rose, 292 fell and 310 ended unchanged.

 There is no data of note due for release in Europe or the US tonight.

 The Australian dollar remains near a 4.5 year low against the greenback and buys US$0.813, €0.666, ¥97.9 and £0.522.

 Holidays this week should keep markets globally quiet. The Australian market will close two hours early on Wednesday. Markets in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore will also close early. Markets in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines will be closed on Wednesday. Most major markets will be closed on Thursday for New Year's Day including the Australian, US and UK markets. Markets, Japan and New Zealand will close on Friday.

 Chinese manufacturing data on Wednesday and Thursday will be among the major releases in focus this week. China's manufacturing industry accounts for around half of China's economy and has been treading water recently.

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