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Stocks keep up rally, though turnover thin

MATERIALS and bank stocks led the charge yesterday, and the sharemarket closed firmly in the black after a positive US lead from Wall Street on Friday.

MATERIALS and bank stocks led the charge yesterday, and the sharemarket closed firmly in the black after a positive US lead from Wall Street on Friday.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index finished with a gain of

69.8 points, or 1.66 per cent, at 4275.4.

CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said trading was strongly positive but on very light volumes.

Market turnover was

1.6 billion shares worth

$3.4 billion, with 683 shares finishing up, 312 closing lower and 346 ending steady.

Mr McCarthy said there was a "lack of conviction" in trading as debt woes in Europe and the US continued to weigh on sentiment.

"There are a number of reasons for local investors to be cautious: cleary while we're much less pessimistic about the debt situation in Europe and the US, we haven't seen some solutions as yet and the potential for negative news flow has risen," he said.

Mr McCarthy said materials and banks were the two best sectors, with the small end of the resource sector a standout performer.

OZ Minerals, Aurora Oil and Gas, Mount Gibson Iron and Atlas Iron were among such stocks that ended more than 5 per cent higher.

BHP Billiton put on 79?, or 2.1 per cent, to $37.65 while Rio Tinto appreciated $1.65, or 2.4 per cent, to $69.95 after saying it would sell 13 aluminium units such as refineries and smelters as it sought to streamline its Alcan aluminium business.

Among the banks, Commonwealth closed 81?, or 1.7 per cent, higher at $48.31, ANZ gained 37?, or 1.8 per cent, to $21.36, National Australia Bank added 47?, or 1.9 per cent, to $24.75 and Westpac found 38?, or 1.8 per cent, to $21.99.

Qantas inched 2? lower to $1.54. The airline Qantas has cancelled 16 domestic flights, blaming maintenance engineers for having to ground five planes as its dispute with pilots escalates.

Super Retail Group shares remained in a trading halt as it announced it had agreed to buy sports goods retailer Rebel Group for $610 million from private equity firm Archer Capital. The shares last traded at $6.50.

Gold continued its rally, finishing the Australian session up $US9.64 at $US1681 an ounce. Newcrest firmed 35? to $36.85.

The dollar hit a one-month high after finance ministers from the world's wealthiest nations vowed to stop the European debt crisis spreading.

In early morning trade, it went as high as $US1.0350, its highest since September 16. At the Australian close, it was trading at $US1.0307, up three-quarters of a US cent from Friday.


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