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SYDNEY, Dec 18 AAP

December 18 2012, 10:42AM

Australian stocks opened are higher as progress in the United States fiscal cliff negotiations led to gains on Wall Street.

At 1020 AEDT on Tuesday the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 24.9 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 4,598.3 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 23.7 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 4,611.7 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 31 points higher at 4,604 points, with 37,448 contracts traded.

RBS Morgans Brisbane senior private client adviser Bill Chatterton said apparent progress in budget talks in Washington had cheered investors.

"They're moving towards a bit of common sense," he said of US lawmakers.

"It will take a little while before they get there but I think both sides understand that those settings that they effectively put in place two years ago are not appropriate for the current environment."

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 100.38 points, or 0.76 per cent, to close at 13,235.39 overnight.

Just two weeks remain before tax increases and government spending cuts, referreed to as the fiscal cliff, take effect in the US if no deal is reached.

Locally, mining stocks had a mixed opening.

BHP Billiton was up 21 cents to $36.56 and Rio Tinto surged 86 cents to $64.38, but Fortescue Metals had lost one cent to $4.46.

The four major banks were all higher.

National Australia Bank jumped 26 cents to $24.74, ANZ gained 4.5 cents to $24.535, Westpac added 12 cents to $25.87 and Commonwealth Bank was up 45 cents to $61.74.

National turnover was 362 million securities worth $558.9 million, with 335 stocks trading up, 197 down and 222 unchanged.