Market Wrap: Aus shares close stronger

Market Reports

Following positive offshore leads, the Australian share market closed at almost a 10 month high. All sectors closed in the black with the miners leading the gains.

The S&P/ASX200 Index closed 55 points up today at 4,936. On the futures market, the SPI is up 66 points.

Economic news: The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported a 2.1 per cent rise in new home loans for domestic owner occupiers, to a seasonally adjusted 51,706. The December data marks the sixth straight monthly rise in housing finance commitments. Analysts expected the volume of home loans would only rise one per cent, after the Reserve Bank of Australia increased the cash rate in November to 4.75 per cent.

Company news: Allied Gold Ltd’s (ASX:ALD) net profit more than doubled in the first half to the end of last December, reaching $9.39 million. The profit jumped 143 per cent from the prior corresponding period and the company says, it expects the Solomon Islands Gold Ridge project to be producing gold during the March quarter. The company, which is listed on both the Australian Securities Exchange and Toronto Stock Exchange, also reported a 24 per cent rise in revenue, to $40.94 million. Despite the strong results, Allied shares closed 1.67 per cent lower at $0.59.
 
Nickel miner, Western Areas NL (ASX:WSA) has reported a first-half net profit of $67.2 million, up from $10.7 million, posted the same time the year before. The company has increased its 2010 to 2011 production guidance, plus increased its interim dividend to $0.10 a share, unfranked. Western Areas says it had total cash plus receivables of $167.7 million at the end of December and strong projected cashflows. Shares in Western Areas closed 4.15 per cent higher at $6.52.
 
According to The Australian, A Korean consortium has made a non-binding bid to buy Whitehaven Coal Ltd (ASX:WHC)
  
Shares in Alkane Resources (ASX:ALK) rose over six per cent today after the mining company said it had raised $21 million, by way of share placement.

Insurance Australia Group Ltd (ASX:IAG) has downgraded its half-year profit expectations, after a worse than anticipated loss in its UK operations. 

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Ltd (ASX:BEN) says its first half net profit to the end of December 2010, climbed 67 per cent to $173.9 million dollars.
 
Best and worst performers: The best performing sector at close was materials with the index rising 242 points to close at 14,466. The sector with the smallest gains was Utilities up by 20 points to close at 4,355. The best performing stock in the S&P/ ASX200 was Aquarius Platinum, shares gained 6.42 per cent to close at $6.80. Shares in Sundance Resources and Mount Gibson Iron also closed stronger today. The worst performing stock was Insurance Australia Group, shares slid 3.97 per cent to close at $3.63. Shares in Anatolia minerals Development and Commonwealth Bank also dropped. CBA shares trading ex dividend $1.32 today.

In commodities, gold is trading at $US1,358 an ounce. Light crude is up by 5 cents at $US85.63 a barrel.