Banks in lead as stocks rise across board

NEWS of more job losses in the banking industry and a further round of Greek austerity measures did little to unsettle investors, with the market rising 1 per cent after Commonwealth Bank lifted its variable mortgage rate independently of the Reserve Bank.

NEWS of more job losses in the banking industry and a further round of Greek austerity measures did little to unsettle investors, with the market rising 1 per cent after Commonwealth Bank lifted its variable mortgage rate independently of the Reserve Bank.

All the ASX sector indices finished higher, except for property trusts, which were just in the red. The strongest performers were goldminers and the banks, with the latter benefiting from the effects of the Greek vote.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 39.8 points, or 0.94 per cent, to 4285.1.

ANZ yesterday confirmed it would slash 1000 jobs this year in response to a changing environment for banks. Higher funding costs, lower consumer and business demand for financial services, and increasing global regulation were all worrying, the bank said.

The Finance Sector Union said it feared that more than 10,000 banking positions could be lost in the next

18 months.

Financial stocks rallied after CBA followed Westpac, ANZ and Bendigo Bank in raising its variable mortgage rate. Its 10-basis-point increase lifted its variable rate to 7.41 per cent.

CBA shares jumped 41?, or 0.8 per cent, to $50.29, ANZ rose 35?, or 1.6 per cent, to $21.77, and Westpac and NAB were both up 1.4 per cent.

A majority of the Greek parliament voted for another round of austerity measures to satisfy requirements for more emergency funding from European governments.

"There is no way to cloud the issue," said Stan Shamu from IG Markets.

"The belt-tightening measures imposed on Greece are brutal and come at time when the Greek economy needs to grow, so cutting 7 per cent of gross domestic product over the next three years is tough."

The big resource stocks finished strongly. BHP Billiton continued its climb, gaining 36?, or 1 per cent, to $36.66, while Rio Tinto rose 45? to $70.43, and Woodside Petroleum improved 18? to $35.58.

Australia's biggest gold producer, Newcrest Mining, climbed $1.09, or 3.2 per cent, to $35.10.

Construction company Leighton Holdings closed 47?, or 2 per cent, lower at $23.38, with an improved first-half profit overshadowed by an alleged case of improper payments by one of its subsidiaries in Iraq.

JB Hi-Fi lost early gains to finish up 4? at $12.03 after its net profit fell 9.4 per cent in the first half. Analysts said most of the bad news was already priced into its share price. JB reported improved February sales.

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