Energy, resources spur 14-month high

THE sharemarket hit a 14-month high yesterday, closing above the 4500-level for the first time since August last year.

THE sharemarket hit a 14-month high yesterday, closing above the 4500-level for the first time since August last year.

Energy and resource stocks drove the gains, following positive price action in China and Hong Kong.

At the close of trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 23.4 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 4505.3.

CMC Markets analyst David Land said the market gained momentum early in the day in line with the China and Hong Kong markets.

"In the markets that have been doing well around the region, the energy sector has had a screamer," Mr Land said.

"It seems to be representative of a return to confidence for the materials sector."

Australian, Chinese and Hong Kong markets rose yesterday as bargain hunters moved in following the previous day's losses, but the Tokyo market was hit by a stronger yen.

Big Australian mining companies and energy stocks all posted gains.

BHP Billiton was up 22? at $33.47, Fortescue Metals was 24? higher at $3.95 and Rio Tinto added 80? to $55.70.

Woodside Petroleum gained 60? to $33.58 and Caltex Australia added 21? to $17.04.

Santos finished 6? higher at $11.66 while Oil Search closed 24? higher at $7.78.

The gold price was $US1777.67 an ounce, up $US9.98.

National turnover was 1.53 billion securities worth $3.36 billion, with 522 stocks up, 425 down and 337 unchanged.

Meanwhile, the dollar was trading higher at US102.31?, up from US101.63? on Monday.

NAB co-head of foreign exchange strategy Ray Attrill said the dollar started off strong yesterday, based on European trading overnight.

"We came into the trading session a bit firmer, and a lot of that was euro-driven," he said.

"The euro was a bit weaker, ahead of the EU finance ministers' meeting, and [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel going to Greece."

Mr Attrill said a speech by RBA deputy governor Phillip Lowe had been watched by the market.

"His comments that the Australian dollar was likely to remain strong in relation to its long-term averages seemed to give the currency a bit of a lift," he said.

"Then there was news that BHP Billiton has made an Australian dollar bond offering for the first time since 2001, and there's a bit of chatter that there's been some decent foreign demand for that."

Mr Attrill said tomorrow's release of the September labour force data would be the next big event for the market.

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