BHP's iron ore record gives stocks a boost

THE sharemarket edged up yesterday after BHP Billiton said it had enjoyed record levels of iron ore production in the past three months.

THE sharemarket edged up yesterday after BHP Billiton said it had enjoyed record levels of iron ore production in the past three months.

The news countered falls in financial stocks, which retreated on World Bank warnings of a second global financial crisis.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 2.3 points to 4217.9.

BHP Billiton released a report showing second-quarter iron ore production had risen a record 22 per cent.

Shareholders welcomed the news, pushing BHP shares 30? higher to $37. Rio Tinto benefited from the positive sentiment, gaining 90? to $66.60.

"Resource stocks have been a talking point in Australia after BHP Billiton posted its quarterly production report," said IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu.

"The report was well received, and it largely beat estimates, with solid numbers in the three key businesses of iron ore, petroleum and base metals," he said.

In morning trade, the sharemarket slipped 2 per cent with investors locking in gains from the previous day, when the benchmark index finished 68.4 points higher, up 1.7 per cent.

The falls were compounded by warnings from the World Bank that the global economy was on the verge of a second financial crisis. This pushed financial stocks lower.

ANZ took the biggest hit, closing 26? lower on $20.79, while National Australia Bank dropped 14? to $23.66 and Westpac slipped 9? to $23.57.

Despite the falls, there was just enough momentum to push the market into positive territory, with industrial, materials and energy stocks doing some heavy lifting.

Newcrest Mining rose 36? to $32.77.

Energy stocks also gained, with Woodside Petroleum rising 46? to $34.11 and Orica Energy gaining 61? to $25.37.

Retailers ended lower after Specialty Fashion Group became the latest fashion brand to downgrade its profit forecasts. Speciality closed down 4?, or 8.5 per cent, at 43?.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric Power said it would raise electricity rates for companies and other large users, potentially increasing annual revenue by Y400 billion to cover higher fuel costs after the Fukushima nuclear crisis caused by last year's earthquake and tsunami.

The dollar was steady after earlier reaching an 11-week high on stronger than expected Chinese growth data. At 5pm, it was at $US1.0390, compared with $US1.0389 on Tuesday.

With AAP

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