SYDNEY -- Australian troops will stay in Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard declared yesterday, as the stock market in Sydney hit a record high following the conservative leader's election to a historic fourth term.
At his first news conference since Saturday's election increased the parliament majority of his center-right coalition, Howard said his priorities were guarding the nation's security, working with allies to fight terrorism, and maintaining the booming economy.
The victory was a resounding vote of confidence in the government's handling of Australia's economy, which has low inflation, unemployment, and interest rates, a budget surplus, and low government debt.
In the first day of trading since the election, the stock market's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 19 points, or 0.5 percent, to a new high of 3705.8, a result analysts attributed to Howard's victory.
Worries about how the opposition Labor Party might handle the economy clearly outweighed anger over Howard's widely unpopular decision last year to send 2,000 soldiers to fight with US and British forces invading Iraq.
Labor leaders had pledged to bring the 900 soldiers still in Iraq home by Christmas if it won the election.