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Stocks make bright start to the new year

THE sharemarket broke the three-day losing streak that ended 2011, climbing 1 per cent in the first day of trading for the year.

THE sharemarket broke the three-day losing streak that ended 2011, climbing 1 per cent in the first day of trading for the year.

Stocks posted gains across the board after better than expected German manufacturing data helped European markets spread more holiday cheer.

Positive manufacturing data from China over the weekend also helped improve risk appetites, lifting resource and energy stocks.

Burrell Stockbroking adviser Jaime Elgar said the market was poised for a bounce in coming months.

"I expect that in the first quarter or the first half we could see some new lows but we will end this year higher," he said.

"If something does happen [to resolve the debt crisis], I think the market has the propensity to see a bit of a bounce."

At the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 44.6 points, or 1.1 per cent, at 4101.2.

Materials led the pack higher, putting on 1.6 per cent after a rise in commodity prices overnight. BHP Billiton rose 1.1 per cent to $34.80 and Rio Tinto gained 1.8 per cent to $61.40.

Shares in Gloucester Coal rose 1.2 per cent to $8.70 on reports that it would wait until suitor Yanzhou Coal Mining Co had finished inspecting its books before deciding whether to recommend the Chinese company's $2 billion takeover offer.

Industrials received a boost from Australian Industry Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers data showing the Australian manufacturing sector had moved into positive figures last month.

OneSteel closed up

1.4 per cent at 71? and BlueScope Steel rose 1.2 per cent to 41?.

The big four banks also benefited from the pick-up in sentiment, gaining between 0.7 and 1.7 per cent.

Still, brokers noted that volumes were thin, with much of the "smart money" slang for institutional investors staying on the sidelines.

Investors are likely to remain wary about the outcome of the next round

of euro-zone debt crisis talks in Brussels and the prospect of billions of euros of debt being rolled into the next quarter.

"It will not really be until mid-January at the earliest, as market players and money managers return from their festive season holidays, that we will be able to garner a real assessment of the market's mood," said IG Markets market analyst Cameron Peacock.

Spot gold finished at $US1587.39 an ounce, up $US32.27 from Friday's close, as the US dollar dipped.

The Aussie finished the local session up US1.28? at $US1.0290.

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