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What to watch on the ASX on Thursday

On Wednesday the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) had a solid day of trade and rallied 0.34% higher to 5,861.40 points. Strong gains in the technology and resources sector were largely responsible for the move higher.

Will it be another day of gains on Thursday? Here are five things that could shape the day ahead.

ASX futures pointing higher.

Although Wall Street has been a little mixed after the quarterly result from U.S. giant IBM disappointed investors, the Australian share market is poised to open the day notably higher. At present SPI futures are pointing to a 25-point or 0.4% gain this morning. At the time of writing the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.16%, the S&P 500 is up 0.1%, and the NASDAQ is 0.2% higher.

Resources shares set to rally.

The key reason that the ASX is expected to open higher today is a surge in commodity prices overnight. This led to the UK listed shares of BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) jumping 5.5% and 3% respectively. Alumina Limited (ASX: AWC) shares are also likely to have a strong day after aluminium prices reached a seven-year high of US$2537 a tonne on the London Metals Exchange. The nickel price also rocketed higher, much to the delight of Western Areas Ltd (ASX: WSA) shareholders.

Oil prices are pushing higher again.

BHP, Oil Search Limited (ASX: OSH), and Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) could also be given a boost from rising oil prices. After giving back some of their recent gains, prices rebounded during overnight trade. At present WTI crude oil is 2.7% higher to US$68.34 per barrel and Brent crude oil is up 2.5% to US$73.38 per barrel.

Economic data drop.

This morning sees the release of the National Australia Bank Ltd (ASX: NAB) Monthly Business Survey of business conditions index for the first quarter. In addition to this, March employment figures are due out today. Economists expect the record breaking run to have continued during last month with 25,000 jobs being added to the economy.

Business updates.

BHP looks set to have a great day of trade due to rising commodity prices, but that could all be undone if the mining giant provides a weaker than expected quarterly update. Expectations are high and I don’t believe the miner will disappoint. One company that could, however, is Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ASX: API). It is due to release its half-year results today. A first-half profit of around $24.5 million is expected from the pharmacy operator and distributor.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of National Australia Bank Limited. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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