Bourse ends week on bright note after positive jobs data

It was an unpleasant start to the week for investors but the mood brightened from Wednesday after a string of positive local data and a late surge from Wall Street.

It was an unpleasant start to the week for investors but the mood brightened from Wednesday after a string of positive local data and a late surge from Wall Street.

By yesterday, shareholders felt confident enough to shrug off news that Chinas economy grew by less than expected in the March quarter  by 8.1 per cent  and the bourse finished marginally higher overall.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 3.1 points to 4322.9 while the All Ordinaries rose 1.5 points to 4403.8. For market watchers, one of the themes of this year has been the frustrating question of when the local bourse might jump over, and then refuse to slip below, the 4300-point mark.

For the past three weeks it has flirted regularly with that number and given analysts some confidence that day could soon arrive.

But this week things looked to be going pear-shaped. Shareholders returned from the Easter break to pull money from the market on Tuesday, and then the bourse slumped to its worst daily close in five weeks on Wednesday (at 4246 points) after disappointing US employment data inspired big falls on Wall Street.

Locally, National Australia Banks monthly business survey found confidence lifted in March amid signs the US and European economies were improving. But an ANZ survey found job ads rose for a third consecutive month  a sign that hiring intentions by businesses were continuing to improve.

When official figures on Thursday showed employment had grown more than expected in March  total employment rose 44,000 for the month, the forecast was for 5000  it sparked a rally that persisted yesterday.

The increased optimism was helped yesterday by large gains on Wall Street overnight, with the bad news from from the beginning of the week apparently all but forgotten.

The gains on US and European bourses were driven by a solid outcome to Spanish and Italian bond auctions and comments by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke that America was working on addressing regulatory failures exposed by the global financial crisis.

For the week, Insurance Australia Group was down 6? at $3.45, despite announcing a $480 million acquisition which will make its Malaysian joint venture that countrys largest general insurer.

Flinders Mines, down 3? at 22? over the week, was sold off when its trading halt was lifted, after court action upheld the iron ore explorers $554 million takeover by a Russian steel maker.

Among the major banks yesterday, Commonwealth Bank was up 42? at $50.18, NAB was 22? higher at $24.80, Westpac added 7? to $22.12 and ANZ was steady at $22.98 after cutting 230 jobs from its underperforming wealth-management business.

Rio Tinto was a top performer among heavyweight stocks, up $1.50 at $65.95, BHP Billiton gained 57? to $34.47 and Fortescue rose 24?, or 4.23 per cent, to $5.92.

ALL ORDS AUSTRALIA

4403.8

30.5 (0.7%)

HIGH 4404.2

LOW 4327.3

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