Shares nudging a five-year high after surprise rate cut

The sharemarket closed the week near a five-year high after the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to historic lows, and a weakening dollar gave the big miners a boost.

The sharemarket closed the week near a five-year high after the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to historic lows, and a weakening dollar gave the big miners a boost.

A slight decline in the US unemployment rate also contributed to the buoyant mood, as the dollar fell to an 11-month low of US100.47¢ early on Friday.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 rose 76.6 points, or 1.5 per cent, at 5206.1 points, while the broader All Ordinaries Index jumped 85.7 points, or 1.7 per cent, at 5191.1 points.

The Reserve Bank surprised some economists this week when it cut the cash rate 25 basis points to 2.75 per cent. It is the lowest the cash rate has been in decades, as the central bank tries to help to rejuvenate non-mining parts of the economy.

The bank's statement on monetary policy, released on Friday, cut its inflation forecast by three-quarters of a percentage point to 2.25 per cent for the year to June.

"There was very little guidance on the future direction of rates," St George economist Janu Chan said.

"However, the language used suggests a shift to a more neutral stance. Additionally, the few changes to the RBA's assessment on the global and domestic economy suggest that it is not poised to cut rates again immediately."

Ms Chan expects the Reserve to keep rates on hold over the next few months. "However, with an uncertain outlook for business investment, employment and the relatively slower impact of low interest rates to date, we recognise that another rate cut cannot be completely ruled out."

On Friday, banking stocks finished in negative territory despite the bourse closing at the highest point since June 2008.

For the week, Boral fell 17¢ to $4.50. With no sign yet of improvement in the depressed housing sector, the industry could benefit from another interest rate cut, said the building products supplier.

Billabong shares are in a trading halt, at 45.5¢, before an update about its potential takeover.

Coca-Cola Amatil fell $1.50 to close at $13.05, after it said the Northern Territory's cash-for-containers recycling scheme was old-fashioned and inefficient and that it would increase the price of soft drinks.

Caltex Australia rose $1.11, at $22.21, after the company's first-quarter profit jumped almost 80 per cent. But the company said refiners' margins would likely be squeezed in the future as capacity in Asia and the Middle East grew.

Leighton rose $1.10, at $20.11. The construction group still expects to make a full-year profit of up to $600 million after completing what it said was a pleasing first quarter.

Mirvac Group rose 3¢ to $1.745. The group said it was on track to meet its full-year financial guidance after a review of its business.

National Australia Bank fell $1.27 to $32.47 after it joined its wealthy rivals and reported a half-year profit of $2.9 billion.

Ten Network Holdings rose 1¢ to 32¢, despite Cricket Australia reportedly launching legal action against its long-term commercial television rights holder, the Nine Network, over its failure to broadcast domestic cricket.

News Corporation rose $2.05 to $33. Its Australian newspapers continue to weigh on earnings while the company's planned split into entertainment and publishing segments is on target to be completed by the end of June.

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