Wall Street shrugs off Cyprus woes to hit record

Wall Street closed at an all-time high on Thursday in a sign of growing confidence in the US economy.

Wall Street closed at an all-time high on Thursday in a sign of growing confidence in the US economy.

The broad-based S&P500 index closed at 1569.19, up 6.34 points, pushing past the previous record of 1565.15, set on October 9, 2007.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which burst through its October 2007 record three weeks ago, rose to a new closing peak of 14,578.54, up 52.38 points.

The nominal record set by the S&P500 is the latest sign that the US is recovering some of the strength it had before the financial collapse of 2008, partly helped by stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

The S&P reached the new high after several days of testing the record as investors grappled with the turmoil caused by Cyprus' banking crisis. Even with the stronger close on Wall Street, Asian markets were trading mixed on Friday.

Australia's market, which was closed for the Good Friday holiday, ended steady. For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 0.8 points, at 4966.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 0.9 points, at 4979.9 points.

So far this year the Australian market is up 6.8 per cent, although it is still more than 1800 points from its record high of 6828.7 set on November 1, 2007.

Attention remains focused on Cyprus which this week reopened its troubled banks, albeit with tight controls over withdrawals.

The trading week began with investors waiting to see if European authorities had come up with a crucial last-minute deal to secure some sort of bailout agreement for the island nation. The week before, Cyprus had fallen into serious trouble when an original bailout deal had imposed a levy on Cypriot bank deposits to force the country to contribute to a multibillion-euro rescue package. Global markets were unsettled when that deal was rejected.

But despite all this, currency traders said foreign exchange markets had already moved on.

"Cypriot residents will feel the fiscal pain for a long time but foreign exchange markets are already looking elsewhere in Europe, where Italy's political farce is back on the front pages," said Robert Rennie, Westpac's chief currency strategist.

"It's Italy we are more worried about. The political story in Italy does not look good. After anti-establishment party Five Star rejected its offer of an alliance, Democratic Party leader [Pier Luigi] Bersani was quoted as saying, 'Only an insane person would want to govern this country, which is in a mess'. He has a point."

The local market has fallen 2.7 per cent this month, following three consecutive months of gains.

Over the week, Kathmandu rose 10¢ to $2.05 after it defied difficult retail conditions to post a hefty rise in first half profit as new stores performed well and online sales grew.

Leighton rose 34¢, at $20.54, after the troubled company elevated Bob Humphris to chairman. It is seeking to quickly put the sudden resignations of three directors behind it.

Nufarm lost 79¢ to $3.95 after the agricultural chemicals supplier's profit fell 53 per cent.

Qantas rose 8.5¢ to $1.785. The airline is free to pursue its plan to revive its international arm after the competition watchdog gave the green light to a partnership with Emirates.

Westfield Group closed the week 9¢ higher at $10.85.

The shopping centre developer will sell a 49.9 per cent stake in six shopping malls in Florida to O'Connor Capital Partners for $US700 million ($672 million).

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