Earnings reports keep spirits buoyant

THE sharemarket has remained above the 5000-point mark, boosted by encouraging company earnings reports.

THE sharemarket has remained above the 5000-point mark, boosted by encouraging company earnings reports.

On Thursday, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 33.2 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 5036.9. The broader All Ordinaries rose 32.7 points, or 0.65 per cent, to 5057.2.

OptionsXpress analyst Ben Le Brun said investors had been looking forward to Rio Tinto's earnings report, which was released after the market close.

Rio Tinto was up $1.61, or 2.3 per cent, at $72.07 before it reported a $2.99 billion annual net loss and underlying earnings down by 40 per cent to $9 billion.

Mr Le Brun said diversified conglomerate Wesfarmers was the latest of several company reports to encourage investors.

The results from engineering company Downer EDI, and a Chinese investor taking a stake in aluminium producer Alumina, also went down well with investors.

Wesfarmers shares rose 46¢ to $38.88 after it reported 9 per cent growth in first-half profit, boosted by better earnings from supermarket operator Coles and home hardware supplier Bunnings.

Downer EDI surged 38¢, or 7.8 per cent, to $5.24, after the engineering company lifted its profit, resumed paying dividends, and said the $3.6 billion Waratah train project was now in good shape.

Alumina was 7.5 per cent higher at $1.29 after a large Chinese investor took a $452 million stake in the company.

"After we got the Wesfarmers' number, that's when the ASX 200 really started to make some inroads. So it's all looking pretty positive at this stage," Mr Le Brun said.

Elsewhere, BHP Billiton jumped 97¢ to $38.89.

Retailer David Jones lost a cent to $2.67 as its second-quarter sales, which included the vital Christmas period, fell 1.4 per cent.

Among the banks, Commonwealth Bank shed 21¢ to $66.90, Westpac added 43¢ to $28.76, ANZ was 25¢ richer at $28.06, and National Australia Bank firmed 6¢ to $29.35.

The price of gold in Sydney was $US1646.40 an ounce, down $US3.31.

The dollar was steady in local trading after hitting a week's high overnight in response to brighter consumer confidence data.

Late on Thursday it was trading at US103.50¢, up from US103.39¢. It rose to US103.71¢ early on Thursday after international markets reacted to Wednesday's improved domestic consumer sentiment data.

LTG Goldrock director Andrew Barnett said the currency's consumer-data rally was likely to be reversed in the next few days. AAP

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