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Energy stocks lead market's charge

THE sharemarket gained almost 2 per cent as investors remained optimistic that European leaders were approaching a resolution of the euro zone debt crisis.

THE sharemarket gained almost 2 per cent as investors remained optimistic that European leaders were approaching a resolution of the euro zone debt crisis.

CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said investors even in the US were turning their focus to the European debt crisis, with confidence kept afloat by comments from French and German leaders on Wednesday that they were determined to keep debt-ridden Greece in the euro zone.

At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 77.7 points, or 1.9 per cent, at 4149.4.

RBS Morgans Ipswich manager Tony Russell said investors were typically cautious about what would happen overseas while the local market was closed at the weekend.

"We've heard a lot of rhetoric and no clear decisions have come through, and I think that will still maintain this volatility that we've seen over the past three to four weeks," he said.

Mr Russell said money was flowing back into equities, with the resource sector bouncing back after feeling the brunt of recent market losses. Among the miners, BHP Billiton rose 60?, or 1.6 per cent, to $38.23, while Rio Tinto gained $1.89, or 2.7 per cent, to $71.27.

Energy stocks were the strongest performers to the close, with the sector gaining 2.9 per cent after oil prices soared on overseas markets. Woodside Petroleum gained $1.04, or 3.1 per cent, to $34.25, Oil Search rose 15? to $6.10 and Santos was 24? higher at $11.45.

The best-performing stock of the top 100 companies on the ASX was property company Goodman Group, up 7.5 per cent at 64.5?. ConnectEast Group was the worst, falling 2?, or 3.9 per cent, to 49?.

Turnover was 2.44 billion shares, changing hands for $5.30 billion, with about eight out of 10 stocks rising.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract rose 73 points to 4170, with 34,997 contracts traded.

Gold closed in Sydney at $US1765.89 an ounce, down $US44.64, after gold fell 2 per cent to three-week lows on overseas markets on Thursday.


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