Stronger market posts biggest weekly gain in nine months

The market closed the week higher for the first time in five weeks.

The market closed the week higher for the first time in five weeks.

It was the biggest weekly gain in nine months, with much of the impetus coming from last week's announcement that the Bank of Japan had started a huge monetary reflation.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 122.1 points, or 2.5 per cent, to 5013.5, while the broader All Ordinaries Index rose 116.8 points, or 2.4 per cent, to 5016.

Positive Chinese economic data and a good start to the March quarter earnings reporting season in the US encouraged investors.

It helped them shrug off a large rise in Australia's unemployment rate, and news that business conditions had fallen to their weakest level in almost four years.

Unemployment rose to 5.6 per cent in March, the highest since late 2009, with the economy losing 36,100 jobs. Some economists described the result as "statistical noise" because it followed a large increase in employment the month before, when jobs jumped by 74,000 positions. But it followed news of heavy falls in manufacturing and retail business conditions, and comments from economists that we are yet to see the upswing in consumer demand that policymakers are searching for.

"It seems that either lower interest rates need more time, or more stimulus [for example, RBA rate cuts] may be needed to set the economy back on a steady growth path," National Australia Bank economist Alexandra Knight said.

"It confirms our view that the labour market remains subdued and the unemployment rate remains under some upward pressure," TD Securities' Alvin Pontoh wrote to clients. Interestingly, shares in Calibre Group have plummeted nearly 60 per cent following a profit warning just one month after the engineering and asset management firm affirmed guidance for a higher profit. Calibre, which only listed last August, expects its profit to fall by up to $16.7 million this year.

Shares in Calibre dived 71¢, or 58.7 per cent, to 50¢ on Friday.

Calibre revised its guidance as a result of challenging market conditions that included delays in capital investment decisions and changed asset-management activity.

For the week, Woodside Petroleum rose 81¢, at $40.67, after shareholders applauded its decision to dump a costly onshore liquefied natural gas plant.

"While the proposed concept for Browse was not deemed commercial, this will probably not shock a lot of analysts. However, what happens now will be interesting for shareholders," Chris Weston of IG Markets said. "Given the low-gearing levels and sizeable excess of franking credits, some feel a special dividend could be on the cards. Others believe the company may look at buying back some of Shell's 24 per cent stake."

Billabong lost 21¢, or 28.7 per cent, at 52¢, as investors punished the surfwear retailer for its cut-price $287 million takeover proposal.

Echo Entertainment gained 18¢, at $3.67, after the casinos operator ramped up its effort to fend off rival James Packer's Crown in the battle for wealthy Chinese gamblers in Sydney.

Qantas gained 2.5¢, at $1.78, despite admitting that the delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner could be delayed by "a couple of months."

Wesfarmers gained 81¢, at $40.67, after Woolworths lifted its quarterly sales by 2.5 per cent to $14.4 billion despite challenging retail conditions.

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