Boosted by strong offshore leads the Australian share market jumped to a fresh 19-month high today on the back of America’s latest budget deal. Local stocks finished at session highs, extending yesterday’s relief rally after the US Congress passed a bill to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts which could have come into effect on January 1, 2013.
The S&P/ASX 200 index jumped 35 points to finish at 4,741.
The value of trades was $2.8 billion on volume of 613 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP)
, Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO)
and Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX:TLS)
On the futures market the SPI is 33 points stronger.
Rio Tinto Limited’s (ASX:RIO)
iron ore chief Sam Walsh has reportedly cautioned the current strength in prices for the steel making commodity will not last. Mr Walsh told News Corporation the recent price spike is due to short term considerations including restocking and the impending cyclone season in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. The price of iron ore price lifted to about $US144 per tonne earlier this week, rebounding from a three year low of about $US87 last year. Shares in Rio Tinto rose 2.41 per cent today, closing at $69.25.
Australia’s largest insurance company, Insurance Australia Group Limited (ASX:IAG)
, has increased its catastrophe reinsurance cover to $5 billion this year from $4.7 billion last year. The company posted a 17 per cent fall in its annual profit last year, impacted by write downs from its UK business and declining investment returns. Shares in IAG gained 0.64 per cent today, closing at $4.72.
Pallet supplier Brambles Limited (ASX:BXB)
has completed its $US177 million acquisition of Europe and Asia-Pacific focussed Pallecon.
Glove and condom maker Ansell Limited (ASX:ANN)
has finalised its $US77 million purchase of Brazilian protective equipment manufacturer Hercules Equipamentos.
Discovery Metals Limited (ASX:DML)
Chinese suitors have extended the closing date for their $830 million takeover bid from January 11 to February 8, 2013.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was materials gaining 162 points to close at 11,006.
The worst performing sector was real estate investment trusts, losing 10 points to close at 977 points.
The best performing stock in the S&PASX 200 was Coalspur Mines Limited (ASX:CPL)
, rising 11.41 per cent to close at $0.83. Shares in Mirabela Nickel Limited (ASX:MBN)
and Aquila Resources Limited (ASX:AQA)
also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was GUD Holdings Limited (ASX:GUD)
, dropping 3.48 per cent to close at $8.32. Shares in DEXUS Property Group (ASX:DXS)
and Telecom Corporation of New Zealand (ASX:TEL)
also closed lower.
Gold is trading at $US1,688 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.29 down at $US92.83 a barrel.
The Australian dollar
The Australian dollar is buying $US1.048.