Stocks rally as euro-zone fears recede

THE sharemarket closed stronger yesterday after several positive earnings results and the growing likelihood that euro-zone finance ministers will approve another bailout for Greece.

THE sharemarket closed stronger yesterday after several positive earnings results and the growing likelihood that euro-zone finance ministers will approve another bailout for Greece.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index jumped 60.2 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 4256.1.

Resources and financial sectors made strong gains as investors digested corporate earnings results and a positive shift in global sentiment on Europe's debt crisis.

Ord Minnett private client adviser Jon Hancock said confidence was returning after recent announcements from Europe on Greece and the determination of France and Germany to ensure Greece's debt crisis was solved. "It is looking more likely that there will be a positive outcome to [last night's meeting]," he said.

Euro-zone finance ministers met last night to decide whether to grant a ?130 billion ($A159.7 billion) bailout package to Greece that would reduce the country's debts to 120 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020.

Volumes on the sharemarket were buoyed as Commonwealth Bank and Telstra traded ex-dividend, Mr Hancock said.

CBA lost 58?, or 1.2 per cent, to $49.10 despite the payout of a fully franked interim dividend of $1.37 a share. Telstra fell 9?, or 2.6 per cent, to $3.32 after the payment of its fully franked dividend of 14? a share.

Materials heavyweights rallied sharply, with BHP Billiton gaining 82?, or 2.3 per cent, to $36.03, and Rio Tinto up $1.47, or 2.2 per cent, at $68.04.

Oil majors also made good gains, with Santos leading the sector with a jump of 44?, or 3.2 per cent, to $14.

Shares in Australia's largest steel maker, BlueScope Steel, dipped 1? to 36.5? after it posted a $530 million first-half net loss for the half-year to December 31. The result was nearly 10 times larger than the $55 million loss for the same period last year.

Banks and financials climbed, with CBA's rivals adding at least 1.8 per cent to their share price valuations.

Westpac led the big four, finishing up 50?, or 2.5 per cent, higher at $20.65.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank firmed 12? to $8.14 despite reporting a 67 per cent drop in first-half profit to $57.9 million.

Amcor was rewarded by investors for its 13.9 per cent rise in first-half underlying profit, as the company realised more benefits from its acquisition of Ball Plastics Packaging and Alcan Packaging. The stock surged 27?, or 3.9 per cent, to $7.15.

Spot gold closed up $US2.66 at $US1735.61 an ounce. AAP

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