Bourse ends month with a bang

THE sharemarket has ended July where it began - with equities marking four straight days of gains - as hopes about central bank action in major economies provided the spark for buyers.

THE sharemarket has ended July where it began - with equities marking four straight days of gains - as hopes about central bank action in major economies provided the spark for buyers.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 23.5 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 4269.2 - an 11-week closing high.

July marked the sixth month of gains for the index this year, with the 4.3 per cent increase the best since January. May's 7.3 per cent loss countered much of the year's advance.

Energy stocks gained 1.5 per cent yesterday, financials added 0.6 per cent, materials rose 0.9 per cent, and industrials shed 0.5 per cent.

For the month, the Telstra-dominated telecoms sub-index led gains, rising 8.3 per cent, financials jumped 6.9 per cent, consumer staples 6.7 per cent, and energy stocks added 2.6 per cent.

Investor hopes are being stoked by this week's separate meetings of central bank officials in the US and Europe, with many expecting pledges of greater monetary stimulus to help revive global growth. Signs of slowing growth in Asia have also raised hopes that authorities in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will join in efforts to spur expansion.

The dollar pushed higher, finishing the Australian session at US105.19?, making a gain for the month of about 3.3 per cent.

The big miners and three of the four major banks all closed higher yesterday. BHP Billiton closed up 30? at $31.93 and Rio Tinto was 90? higher at $53.20. ANZ was up 14? at $23.54, NAB gained 37? to $24.98 and Commonwealth Bank was 33? higher at $57.53. Westpac slipped 6? to $23.20.

Banks were among the best performers for the month, with CBA alone contributing almost a fifth of the S&P/ASX 200's gain. The other three banks, along with Telstra, made up another two-fifths of the advance. Other gainers included Lend Lease, up 12.5 per cent.

Major drags on the index included Fortescue Metals, which lost 16 per cent, as did Iluka Resources.

Shares in Breville Group hit a record $4.78 yesterday after the kitchen appliance maker said it expected full-year earnings to grow by up to 40 per cent.

Origin Energy shares rose 24? to $11.81 after stronger commodity prices drove revenue higher despite lower production levels.

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