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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 06:00 GMT
Australian shares ignore cyclone
Satellite image courtesy of Australia's Bureau of Meteorology
The storm hit North Queensland, a key tourism region
The Australian stock market has all but ignored the powerful cyclone that hit the country's north-eastern coast.

Despite Tropical Cyclone Larry being dubbed Australia's worst such storm in decades, the country's main share index hit a record closing high on Monday.

Traders in Sydney were instead focusing on strong gains to mining stocks, which are benefiting from ongoing high global metal prices.

Australia's main SP/ASX 200 index ended the day up 29 points to 5,000.4.

This was the first time it had ever closed above the 5,000 level.

The gains were led by mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and the country's major banks.

Rio Tinto had said earlier that its facilities in Australia's Queensland state were unaffected by the storm which hit land 100km (62 miles) south of main Queensland city Cairns at speeds of up to 290km/h (180mph).

Tourist industry

The North Queensland area is popular with tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

It also has extensive sugar cane and banana plantations.

A spokeswoman for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said it was too early to assess any possible damage to the reef system, which is the largest in the world.

"At the moment it's too difficult for emergency services to get out, let alone us," she said.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the devastation caused by Cyclone Larry



SEE ALSO:
Cyclone batters Australian coast
20 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cyclone Clare hits NW Australia
10 Jan 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Cyclone weakens over Queensland
10 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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