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Stocks keep going after last week's big gains

THE sharemarket closed higher yesterday as investors kept up the momentum from last week's rally, underpinned by positive US futures prices.

THE sharemarket closed higher yesterday as investors kept up the momentum from last week's rally, underpinned by positive US futures prices.

The market took heart from the German and French governments saying they would back a plan to recapitalise ailing European banks in an effort to contain the euro-zone debt crisis.

By the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index had risen by

38.1 points, or 0.92 per cent, to 4201.

CommSec analyst Juliette Saly said trading volumes had been very low lately, but yesterday's effort had been solid and better than expected after the market's best weekly performance in more than a year last week.

"We've seen this rally have a bit of momentum at the moment," Ms Saly said. "Obviously comments from Germany and France helped, and also the US futures were up by about 1 per cent all day."

She said investors expected positive results and strong guidance from the US earnings season.

Energy stocks were yesterday's strongest gainers, rising 1.9 per cent. Woodside Petroleum rose 47?, or

1.3 per cent, to $35.55, Santos advanced 31?, or 2.6 per cent, to $12.33 and Oil Search gained 2? to $5.95.

Shares in uranium explorer Extract Resources shot up 82?, or 10.2 per cent, to $8.86, amid speculation that China's Guandong Nuclear Power would make a $2.2 billion offer for the company.

The biggest gainer on the S&P/ASX 100 was uranium explorer and miner Paladin Energy, which jumped 16?, or 10.3 per cent, to $1.71.

Financials ended the day 1.2 per cent higher, with all the big retail banks firmer. Westpac gained the most ground in percentage terms, up 2.2 per cent, or 46?, at $21.70.

"Investors are getting back into banks we know they're solid and pay good dividends and they've been heavily oversold of late. So once you see positive momentum, you see a bit of traction," Ms Saly said.

The telecoms sector closed 1.5 per cent stronger, pulled higher by Telstra, which rose 5?, or 1.7 per cent, to $3.08.

A stronger Australian dollar affected companies with offshore operations and earnings, including medical equipment company ResMed, which was the worst performer in the top 100. It dropped 5?, or 1.6 per cent, to $3.02.

Fairfax Media was steady at 89.5? after saying it had agreed to sell its regional radio assets to Grant Broadcasters.

Qantas rose 2.5?, or

1.7 per cent, to $1.52.

The spot gold price finished the Australian session down $US7 at $US1651 an ounce. AAP


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