Market Wrap: Aus shares close 1.4% higher

Market Reports

The Australian sharemarket ended the day 1.4 per cent higher thanks to the International Monetary Fund’s cautiously optimistic view on global growth, raising the forecast for global growth to 3.5 per cent for this year.

Today, the S&P/ASX 200 index rose 59 points to finish at 4,348. On the futures market, the SPI is currently 69 points higher.

Economic news

The annualised growth rate of the Westpac-Melbourne Institute Leading Index, which indicates the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future was 2.4 per cent in February, below its long-term trend of 2.9 per cent.

Company news

BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP, NYSE:BHP) has released its March quarter production report. The global miner produced 38 million tonnes of iron ore during the three month period. The result was 14 per cent higher than the March quarter the year before but 8 per cent lower than the December quarter, with cyclone activity taking its toll. Metallurgical coal production rose 10 per cent compared with the same period the year before, but fell 14 per cent when compared to the December quarter, with Queensland coal production impacted by heavy rainfall and industrial action. BHP Billiton shares closed 2.78 per cent higher at $35.10.

The Westfield Group (ASX:WDC) has entered into agreements to divest eight non-core shopping centres in the United States for more than $US 1 billion. Starwood Capital Group will own the majority interest in seven of the centres. The eighth centre is being sold in a separate transaction. The proceeds from the transactions will be used to pay down corporate debt and then be redeployed in higher return redevelopment opportunities in the US, including the World Trade Center. Westfield Group shares closed 3.38 per cent higher at $9.17.

Bank of Queensland Limited (ASX:BOQ) reports a first half net loss of just under $91 million.

Coalworks Limited (ASX:CWK) says it has received a requisition from Macquarie Bank to hold a general meeting of shareholders to remove two directors.

Perseus Mining Limited (ASX:PRU) says it’s on track to deliver its gold production targets for the June quarter.

And nickel miner Mincor Resources NL (ASX:MCR) reports a lift in third quarter output and says it’s on track to meet full year production targets.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was Materials gaining 256 points to close at 11,021.

The sector with the smallest gains was Telco Services, rising less than a point to close at 1,155 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Kagara Limited (ASX:KZL), rising 13.64 per cent to close at $0.125. Shares in Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX:ERA) and Linc Energy Limited (ASX:LNC) also closed higher.

The worst performing stock was Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX:LYC), dropping 1.74 per cent to close at $1.13. Shares in Senex Energy Limited (ASX:SXY) and Spark Infrastructure Group (ASX:SKI) also closed lower.

Commodities

Gold is trading at $US1,653 an ounce. Light crude is $0.24 higher at $US104.44 a barrel.

The Australian dollar

The Australian dollar is buying $US1.0397.