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Better results give market a push along

THE sharemarket made strong gains as encouraging company earnings at the end of the reporting season buoyed investor sentiment.

THE sharemarket made strong gains as encouraging company earnings at the end of the reporting season buoyed investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index finished with a gain of 63.3 points, or 1.5 per cent, at 4263.3.

IG Markets research analyst Ben Potter said the market closed higher than he had expected.

"It looks like a bit of risk appetite is coming into the market, which has obviously been ebbing and flowing, given all the volatility we've seen recently," he said.

However, Mr Potter said that despite a lack of selling pressure, he did not expect the gains to continue.

"I think there is a good chance we'll see [US] economic data disappoint at some stage during the week, which will probably hold any rally or any further upside in the short term."

CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said that strong company earnings growth gave stocks a good start yesterday. Earnings growth had averaged about 7 per cent throughout the reporting season, he said.

Making news yesterday, rail haulage operator QR National firmed 1? to $3.20, after the company reported a big lift in full-year net profit to $349.5 million. QR National said coal haulage volumes remained soft in the first quarter of the year as miners recovered from the Queensland floods.

Financial planners Count Financial was up 4? at $1.06 after more than doubling full-year profit.

Oil and gas company AWE was up 5.5? at $1.255, after posting a $117.6 million loss on write-downs and unsuccessful exploration costs, although core businesses still performed well.

Breads and spreads maker Goodman Fielder gained 1? to 78? after it announced it would restructure its business. It reported a full-year loss of $166.7 million.

The big four banks were stronger, with National Australia Bank up 29? at $23.44. ANZ was up 36? at $20.21, Westpac was 37? stronger at $20.42 and Commonwealth gained 59? to $47.96.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton was up 51? at $39.15 and Rio Tinto gained $1.46 to $70.61.

Gold, which on Monday last week peaked at $US1913.50 an ounce and three days later dropped to $US1704.25, yesterday finished the Australian session at $US1817.88 an ounce, up $US45.38.

The dollar yesterday traded at its highest in three weeks as improved market optimism helps push Asian equities higher. At the close, it was at $US1.0610, up more than US1? from Friday's $US1.0502.


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