Blue-chips lead the way as market rallies

The sharemarket closed higher as blue-chip stocks such as the banks, BHP and Telstra rallied after selling down the previous day.

The sharemarket closed higher as blue-chip stocks such as the banks, BHP and Telstra rallied after selling down the previous day.

The benchmark ASX 200 index added 36.2 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 5355.4, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 34.5 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5352.

Comments before the market opened from Janet Yellen, who is expected to be confirmed as the next chairwoman of the US Federal Reserve, that the central bank "has more work to do" to support economic growth led many to speculate she is unlikely to begin reducing stimulus this year.

Dr Yellen's tone contrasted with comments from one of her fellow Federal Open Market Committee members the previous day.

"Equities are volatile at the moment in response to the toing-and-froing about when tapering will begin as everybody tries to second guess what the impact will be on different sectors," Contango Asset Management portfolio manager Shawn Burns said. "When a reduction in US central bank stimulus begins, cyclical stocks, such as transport, retail and building materials are likely to benefit as people anticipate improving economic growth, but while tapering is delayed those types of stocks remain quite vulnerable to short-term disappointments in the economy."

In the market, Commonwealth Bank rose 1.2 per cent to $77.20, while Westpac rebounded 1.2 per cent to $32.65. ANZ rose 1.3 per cent to $31.84 and NAB rose 0.4 per cent to $33.78.

Healthcare was the best-performing sector, up 1.1 per cent as plasma and vaccine maker CSL rose 0.8 per cent at $67.60.

BHP rose 0.5 per cent to $37.82, while Rio Tinto added 0.8 per cent to $65.13. Fortescue gained another 0.9 per cent to $5.82.

Telstra rose 0.4 per cent at $5.13.

Nickel, copper and zinc explorer Independence Group was the worst-performing stock, down 6.8 per cent at $3.42.

Building materials supplier James Hardie rose 14.9 per cent to a record $12, after it announced net profit had more than doubled in the six months to September 30.

Virgin fell 1.2 per cent to 40.5¢, before entering a trading halt after it announced a $350 million equity raising. Ten Network rose 4 per cent to 26¢, as it was reported management have been instructed to slash costs by 10 per cent with job losses expected.