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ASX 200 Index hits four-year high

20 Feb 2013 THE AGE



THE sharemarket closed at its highest in more than four years on Tuesday, with gains across the board.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed up 18.5 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 5081.9, its highest close since September 2008.

RBS Morgans senior private client adviser Bill Chatterton said there had been gains in most sectors, with the materials sector performing particularly well.

"We're right in the middle of reporting season and so far we've had some disappointments in the odd one, but on balance it's been reasonably good," he said.

Europe's main sharemarkets mostly fell on Monday after a weekend meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies ended with Japan being spared an accusation of unfairly devaluing its currency. Wall Street was closed for the Presidents' Day public holiday.

BHP Billiton surged 33¢ to $39 and Fortescue gained 5¢ to $5.18 but Rio Tinto fell 38¢ to $70.51,

Coca-Cola Amatil announced its annual profit had fallen by 22 per cent as it dealt with weak consumer spending and the high dollar, but its shares closed 27¢ higher at $13.90.

Engineering company Monadelphous said it continued to benefit from huge investments in resource projects, posting a record $79.1 million result in the first half of 2012-13. But Monadelphous shares fell $1.68 to $26.17 due to an uncertain lookout.

Steel and mining group Arrium fell further into the red as the high dollar and weak construction markets cause a huge write-down on its assets, forcing its shares down 2.5¢ to $1.235.

Ports and rail operator Asciano has increased its first-half profit by 74 per cent and forecast more earnings growth in the second half, pushing its shares 10¢ higher to $5.35.

The Reserve Bank released the minutes of its February meeting, where it kept the cash rate at 3 per cent. The minutes indicated the bank was waiting to see how recent interest rate cuts would flow through the economy before deciding if it needed to cut the rate again.

Bond futures were weaker. The March 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.44 (implying a yield of 3.56 per cent), down from 96.445 (3.555 per cent) on Monday. The three-year contract was at 97.09 (2.91 per cent), down from 97.08 (2.92 per cent).