Stocks index makes another weekly gain

INVESTORS did well this week, pushing the market to its second weekly gain on the trot after

INVESTORS did well this week, pushing the market to its second weekly gain on the trot after

negotiating mixed economic news.

The momentum will give traders a breather before next week's data on the crucial consumer price index, which will have a big bearing on whether the Reserve Bank cuts rates in May, as many economists expect it will.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up

43.2 points, or 1 per cent, at 4366.5.

The trading week was full of

economic news.

There were reports from Europe, with two rounds of Spanish bond auctions that went better than expected, thus failing to frighten

financial markets (despite a spike in bad loans). These were followed by rumours of a credit downgrade for France that stamped out any chance of a positive reaction to Spain's bond sales.

There was unsettling news from the US, with unemployment claims, manufacturing data and sales of existing home all failing to meet expectations.

China also weighed in with news, its central bank suggesting it would increase liquidity for the country's banks.

Economists were yesterday

publishing their predictions for the RBA rate meeting, along with the key variables they thought would influence the decision.

"Encouraging a cut would be the recent independent rate rises by a major bank, which has tightened policy slightly since the last board meeting," wrote HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham.

"We forecast underlying inflation to fall into the lower half of the target band year on year, giving [the RBA] scope to cut rates on May."

For the week, BHP Billiton

jumped $1.03 to $35.50 after its latest production figures met expectations, while Rio Tinto rose 68? to $66.63 after reporting increased production of key

commodities including iron ore

and coal in the March quarter.

Building materials producer Boral was down 19? at $3.70 for the week, after cutting full-year profit guidance by $22 million due to heavy rain and weak housing

activity.

Bank of Queensland firmed 13? to $7.12 after it outlined its

much-anticipated turnaround plan following a $90.6 million first-half loss.

Commonwealth Bank shares found 76? at $50.94 after boss Ian Narev set out his vision for the

country's largest bank, while still refusing to put performance targets on his key aims.

Telstra firmed 2? to $3.38 after chief executive David Thodey said the telco would look to increase its stake in Foxtel if James Packer decided to sell out of the pay TV company.

iiNet was up 12? at $3.12 after the internet service provider welcomed a High Court decision to dismiss an appeal by the world's largest film and television companies, saying the decision proved it never

supported unauthorised downloading.

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