US sentiment overrules China negativity

The sharemarket closed stronger as banks helped investors shake off fears of a China slowdown, pushing the market to fresh 4-year highs.

The sharemarket closed stronger as banks helped investors shake off fears of a China slowdown, pushing the market to fresh 4-year highs.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 23.5 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 5146.9, closing just below the day's high. The broader All Ordinaries Index gained 22.7 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5160.2.

The S&P/ASX 200 is now at its highest since June 2008.

In data released over the weekend, Chinese inflation rose to a 10-month high and industrial production and retail sales growth fell.

After an initial slump, investors decided record highs on Wall Street last week outweighed China's negative numbers.

The financial sector did most of the heavy lifting, led by Commonwealth Bank, which pushed through $70 a share. The resource sector continued to struggle as it has for much of 2013 as mining companies adapt to an age of small profits and tighter capital controls.

RBS Morgans senior trader Luke McElwaine said investors were searching the resource sector for better returns.

"There is an insatiable appetite for banks globally. The yield theme is probably the strongest," he said.

NAB led the charge on Monday, jumping 1.7 per cent to $31.64, while Commonwealth Bank inched up to a record high of $70.13. ANZ finished slightly higher at $29.20 and Westpac, which is near record highs, remained flat at $31.25.

The data from China hit miners. Rio Tinto slipped 2 per cent to $63.10, while BHP lost 0.7 per cent to $35.82. Fortescue Metals dropped 1.1 per cent to $4.37.

Mr McElwaine said the market was still trying to find a new home above 5000 and he did not expect it to run off in the near term, but with a weakening Australian dollar and a federal election this year, the ASX could potentially push higher.

"I think investors are looking through the earnings, which is a good sign, because it tells you sentiment is getting better," he said.

Woolworths hit a record high, adding 1 per cent to $35.71, while rival Wesfarmers gained around half a per cent to $42.85.

CSR, which will cut 150 jobs because of the dollar and weak construction market, rose 2.9 per cent to $2.16.

Leighton Holdings finished 2 per cent higher at $22.48 after its subsidiary Thiess was awarded a $212 million contract for work on Chevron's Gorgon project in Western Australia.

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