Market hurdles jobs data to continue rise

The sharemarket closed higher for a fifth straight session, reaching five-year highs despite disappointing jobs data.

The sharemarket closed higher for a fifth straight session, reaching five-year highs despite disappointing jobs data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 8.1 points to 5242.5 and the broader All Ordinaries gained 7.6 points to 5238.2.

OptionsXpress analyst Ben Le Brun said the market had made tentative gains on soft volumes.

"There's been some negativity centring around the unemployment rate, but it looks as if the momentum [from market rises earlier this week] is just enough at this stage to keep us tracking on the upside," he said.

Official figures showed that the unemployment rate rose to 5.8 per cent in August, from 5.7 per cent in July, in line with economists' forecasts. But the 10,800 fall in the total number of people with jobs was the opposite of expectations of an increase.

The data sparked a selloff in the dollar, which dived more than US1¢ to US92.4¢ in late trade.

Investors had been driving up the dollar, buoyed by solid Chinese economic data, easing concerns over Syria and increased business confidence.

Mr Le Brun said investors were awaiting next week's US Federal Reserve policy meeting for any indication that the US will start tapering its stimulus program.

"Maybe that's starting to become a little bit more of a focal point today, ahead of jobless claims in the US [overnight]," he said.

On the local bourse, department store owner Myer lost 11¢ to $2.77 after its full year profit fell 8.7 per cent to $127.2 million.

AGL Energy firmed 2¢ to $15.25 after the competition watchdog approved a $103 million takeover of rival Australian Power and Gas.

Beef cattle producer Australian Agricultural Co was in a trading halt after it released plans to raise almost $300 million through the sale of new shares.

Bega Cheese was up 18¢ at $3.33 after it announced a takeover bid for Warrnambool Cheese and Butter. WCB jumped $1.26 to $5.77.

In resources, BHP Billiton added 25¢ to $36.58, and Rio Tinto climbed 5¢ to $64.20.

Goldminers were among the losers as the gold price continued its fall amid easing tensions on Syria. Newcrest, Australia's biggest goldminer, lost 2.2 per cent to $12.23.

Of the major banks, Westpac fell 6¢ to $32.42, NAB was steady at $33.85, ANZ slipped 3¢ to $30.37, and Commonwealth Bank fell 16¢ to $73.98.

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