Stocks edge up on European bond sales

THE sharemarket ended the week at its highest this year after a round of successful debt auctions in Europe led to gains in commodity-driven stocks.

THE sharemarket ended the week at its highest this year after a round of successful debt auctions in Europe led to gains in commodity-driven stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose

14.9 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4195.9 after yields on government debt issues by Spain and Italy fell to their lowest in months and as the European Central Bank held interest rates steady in its first meeting of the year.

For the week, the benchmark was up 87.4 points, or 2.1 per cent.

Energy, miners and industrials led the market higher, with most sectors ending in positive territory. Even the embattled retail sector managed to add 0.1 per cent to

end the week 3 per cent higher.

But investors sounded a note of caution, with more US earnings reports due out after the close on Wall Street last night and with US oil giant Chevron having reported a significant fall in third-quarter results on declining production.

Market volumes yesterday was light, with 1.39 billion shares traded at a value of $3.4 billion.

"We're looking pretty cautious and volumes are thin ahead of the long weekend in America," said an institutional dealer who asked not to be named. "We had a reasonable result from Alcoa but a downgrade from Chevron so sentiment is mixed."

Energy shares were the day's biggest gainers, drawn 0.8 per cent higher by a surge in Linc Energy. It ended the day up 17.7 per cent on speculation that Linc had found a buyer for its Teresa coal asset in Australia.

Woodside Petroleum was up

1.5 per cent at $32.85 while Santos rose 0.8 per cent to $12.85 after it confirmed it would develop the

$490 million Fletcher Finucane oil project in the Carnarvon Basin off Western Australia.

Financial stocks remained in focus in the run-up to the release of earnings results from JPMorgan in the US last night and with the market still digesting QBE's surprise profit downgrade. Shares in QBE lost another 3.1 per cent to $11, taking it to an eight-year low.

The big four banks all closed higher.

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