Market ends week on a high note

THE sharemarket ended the week at a seven-week high, led by the resources and materials sector.

THE sharemarket ended the week at a seven-week high, led by the resources and materials sector.

A decision by the US central bank to keep interest rates low for longer in the world's biggest economy boosted investor confidence and the appetite for riskier stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed yesterday up 17.1 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 4288.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 19.4 points, or 0.45 per cent, to 4348.5. The March share price index futures contract was up seven points at 4258, with 28,400 contracts traded. It was a fourth successive week of gains.

The US Federal Reserve pledged on Wednesday to keep interest rates low until at least 2014 to nurture the country's stubbornly slow economic recovery, while flagging potential further quantitative easing.

IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu said the local market performed well after tentative opening gains of about 0.2 per cent, following the Australia Day public holiday.

"Rates might be on hold in the US until late 2014, which was really cheered by markets," he said.

"The high beta stocks [riskier] are doing quite well we are quite leveraged to growth. We saw a massive rally in commodities as well following the FOMC [the Federal Open Markets Committee] meeting and that has extended to the resources here."

The world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton, closed up 24?, or 0.64 per cent, at $37.66, Rio Tinto added $1.43, or 2.09 per cent, to $69.78 and Fortescue Metals shot up 20?, or 4.12 per cent, to $5.06.

Shares in Australia's biggest oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum, closed up 51?, or 1.5 per cent, at $34.48 after it said it was considering partially selling down its interest in the $US30 billion Browse liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia.

The major banks lost some of their early gains. Westpac dipped 1? to $21.29, Commonwealth Bank rose 16? to $51.16, ANZ was up 8? at $21.50 and National Australia Bank shed 12? to $24.08.

The only sectors to finish weaker were defensives including consumer discretionaries, consumer staples, info techs and telecoms, which closed between 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent softer.

US sleep disorder specialist ResMed was up 19? richer at $2.73 after it reported a drop in profit for the first half of the financial year but record revenue and net income for the December quarter.

National turnover at was 1.7 million shares worth $4.5 billion.

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