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All sectors are go as confidence returns

THE sharemarket closed sharply higher, buoyed by a return to confidence from overseas investors and solid earnings results.

THE sharemarket closed sharply higher, buoyed by a return to confidence from overseas investors and solid earnings results.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 91.1 points, or 2.23 per cent, at 4173.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index was 89.1 points, 2.15 per cent, higher at 4239.9.

RBS Morgans director of equities Bill Chatterton said confidence was creeping into the market from investors in Asia and from a positive reporting season that had generally met expectations.

The best-performing stock was Caltex Australia, which rose 42?, or 4.3 per cent, to $10.26 after it almost doubled its first-half profit to $270 million.

"It's just a vindication that the quality businesses in the market are doing what they said they'd do," Mr Chatterton said.

"They haven't all delivered but a lot of them have delivered on expectation. With that, the market and the fund managers are a little more comfortable to spend."

Brewer Foster's Group was 9? higher at $4.99 after saying a pick-up in consumer confidence and a return to normal weather should return the sector to flat to moderate growth, even though it reported a full-year loss of $89 million.

Origin Energy closed 68? higher at $14.16 after its full-year profit fell by 70 per cent.

It said underlying profit was expected to lift by 30 per cent in the current year.

Sonic Healthcare dropped 23?, or 2 per cent, to $11.29 after the company forecast 15 per cent earnings growth after a flat full-year profit in 2010-11.

The big four banks all moved ahead, Commonwealth rising $1.11, or 2.4 per cent, to $47.01, ANZ 52? to $19.82, Westpac 70? to $20.06 and National Australia Bank 70? to $22.91.

Oil Search was up 4? at $6.04 after more than doubling first-half net profit due to higher oil prices.

Woodside Petroleum was up 59? at $35.12 and Santos was up 51? at $11.75.

Global miner BHP Billiton was up 68? at $38.21 and Rio Tinto $1.52 higher at $70.10.

As gold held on to recent strong gains, goldminer Newcrest picked up 35?, or 0.9 per cent, to $40.55. At the Sydney close, spot gold was up $US2.41 to $US1894.86 an ounce.

National turnover was 2.33 billion shares worth $6.34 billion, with 673 stocks up, 353 down, and 341 steady.

The Australian market's gains followed a mild rally on US markets overnight, which also improved sentiment in Asia.

Last night in Europe, indices on leading exchanges were up 1.5 per cent or more after the first 2? hours of trading.

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