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Strong offshore lead bolsters stocks

13 Dec 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD - MAX MASON


THE sharemarket closed on Wednesday at its highest point in 17 months, but still off the day's highs, as positive leads from overseas boosted the local market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 7.8 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4583.8, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 10.5 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4591.8.

"We've seen a bit of up and down from the market, but in general terms it hasn't been doing a huge amount," said CommSec analyst Steven Daghlian.

Among the sectors, health jumped 2 per cent, energy added 1.5 per cent, consumer discretionary rose 0.9 per cent and materials inched up 0.5 per cent. Telecoms and financials bucked the trend, slipping 1.3 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

The ASX 200 pushed above 4600 for the first time since July last year after Wall Street and European markets finished higher, with five-year highs in Germany lifting markets across the continent.

Higher commodity prices helped boost the resources sector, with iron ore at $US124.90 a tonne.

Iron ore miner Fortescue was the biggest winner among the miners, up 1.7 per cent to $4.28.

BHP rose 1 per cent to $35.76 after it said it would sell its interest in the Browse LNG joint venture, while rival Rio Tinto jumped 0.7 per cent to $62.20.

"With the miners, you have to take a step back and compare it to the rest of the market this year - the Aussie market is up about 12 per cent this year, the mining sector's down 1.5 per cent, so the mining sector is still struggling and dragging its heels," said Mr Daghlian.

The expectation of more quantitative easing in the US saw the Australian dollar rise to three-month highs, fetching $US1.0541.

Linc Energy surged 25 per cent on Wednesday, adding to a 17 per cent jump on Tuesday, after news emerged that the company was in talks with Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich about opportunities for the company in Russia. The Brisbane-based company finished at $1.30.

Investors reacted sombrely to Coca-Cola Amatil's earnings guidance for 2012, despite an expected 5 per cent increase in profit growth. The shares slipped 2.6 per cent to $13.56.

Echo Entertainment announced a new chief executive, John Redmond, a former executive with casino groups such as Caesars, which was well received by the market as the shares added 3.2 per cent to finish at $3.52.

All the major banks recorded losses. ANZ slipped 0.8 per cent to $24.70, Westpac fell 0.4 per cent to $25.90, NAB dropped 0.2 per cent to $24.66 and CBA lost 0.1 per cent to $61.20. Westpac, NAB and Bank of Queensland will hold their annual meetings on Thursday.