Banks lead market to 14-month high

THE sharemarket extended gains from Wednesday to close at a 14-month high, after weak retail sales boosted chances of another rate cut next month.

THE sharemarket extended gains from Wednesday to close at a 14-month high, after weak retail sales boosted chances of another rate cut next month.

Overall, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index rose 13.8 points, or 0.3 per cent, to finish at 4452.4, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 13.9 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4472.7 points.

Financial stocks did much of the heavy lifting, adding 1 per cent, as mortgagors waited for the big banks to pass on some of the Reserve Bank's latest rate cut.

ANZ rose 25?, or 1 per cent, to $25.30 CBA rose 55?, or 1 per cent, to $56.55 NAB rose 20?, or 0.8 per cent, to $26.15, while Westpac rose 41?, or 1.6 per cent, to $25.77.

But most of those gains were erased by a depressed resource sector, after some of the large miners took a hit from a sharp drop in oil prices overnight.

BHP Billiton fell 44?, or 1.3 per cent, to $32.99, while Rio Tinto rose 23? to $53.95.

"What we've seen is similar to what happened in the US overnight, where domestic stocks did OK but global growth stocks, such as materials and energy companies, were a little bit soft," Ord Minnett senior analyst Craig Turton said.

"The oil price was under pressure because US output was very strong, hitting a 15-year high overnight, and people have been focused on the collapse in the Iranian currency [as a result of US-led sanctions]."

Retail sales climbed just 0.2 per cent in August, half the expected rise, adding to the case for another rate cut next month.

For individual stocks, Billabong plummeted 24?, or 18.25 per cent, at $1.07, over speculation a second private equity firm was considering withdrawing its takeover bid for the troubled surf retailer.

ANZ rose after it said it would spend up to $1.5 billion improving branches and mobile banking products as it edges towards dumping PIN codes for futuristic facial and fingerprint scanning.

Qantas slipped 1?, to $1.22, after the airline said it was no longer seeking interim authorisation from the competition regulator for its proposed alliance with Emirates.

Retail Food Group was placed in a trading halt, last trading at $3, ahead of a planned capital raising and a change to the terms of its purchase of the Crust Gourmet Pizza Bars franchise system.

Transurban rose 6?, or 1 per cent, to $6.16, after the tollroad operator pushed for an overhaul of the way motorists are tolled to reduce traffic congestion.

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