Stocks end a variable week on a high

THE sharemarket closed the week higher as investors absorbed news of Italy's deadlocked elections and talk dominated of an overvalued dollar.

THE sharemarket closed the week higher as investors absorbed news of Italy's deadlocked elections and talk dominated of an overvalued dollar.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 gained 67.7 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 5086.1, while the All Ordinaries Index rose 64.2 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 5100.9.

The market had a volatile ride this week, getting hit early by the outcome of the Italian election before recovering as US economic data proved better than expected.

"The inconclusive Italian election result with the centre left winning the lower house but not the Senate clearly spooked investors fearful that it would trigger a renewed escalation of the eurozone crisis," AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said. "However, while political uncertainty is the last thing Italy needs right now there is a danger in overreacting."

CommSec market analyst Steve Daghlian said the profits season was not great for the miners, which had actually lost ground over earnings season. He said there were still concerns over US fiscal cliff negotiations and that would be an "important driver" of the market next week.

For the week, Atlas Iron lost 18.5¢ to $1.42 after the miner said it was confident enough about iron ore demand to press on with production growth this year, despite low prices contributing to a big full-year loss.

AGL Energy rose 69¢ to $15.91 as the company warned that ordinary energy users would pay dearly with new laws locking up coal seam gas reserves.

Beach Energy rose 14¢ to $1.435 after the company trimmed its full-year production guidance just a day after its $349 million shale oil deal with US energy giant Chevron.

Caltex Australia gained $2.30 to $20.54 after it said it would find enough fuel to supply customers despite the looming closure of a refinery adding to worries about Australia's energy security.

James Hardie slipped 5¢ to $9.65 after the building supplies company said home builders were opting for cheaper houses, given weaker economic conditions and problems with affordability.

Harvey Norman gained 28¢ to $2.61. Gerry Harvey said he was banking on a little divine intervention to keep cashed-up shoppers flooding into his stores.

Oil Search gained 38¢ to $7.76 after the company cut its full-year production target after recording a drop in half-year profit due to increased exploration activity.

Rio Tinto lost 64¢ to $66.08 after the company appointed the former boss of toll-road owner Transurban, Chris Lynch, as its new chief financial officer.

Seven Group Holdings rose $1.27 to $11.09 after it said it expected to defy a tipped fall in heavy equipment orders and lift its full-year earnings by up to 20 per cent.

Westfield Group rose 10¢ to $11.10 after boss Peter Lowy said Australian shoppers might be ready to start splashing their cash again as solid savings rates and low inflation lifted confidence.

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