Market Wrap: Banks and BHP lead shares higher

Market Reports

The Australian share market closed 0.73 per cent up after Telstra provided some healthy gains in the afternoon following increases in the banks and miners in the morning. Softer Chinese inflation numbers seem to have given both the Aussie dollar and the ASX heart with the weak reading igniting hopes for further stimulus of the Chinese economy. 
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 38 points up to finish at 5,246. 
The value of trades was $4.51 billion on volume of 790 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC).
On the futures market the SPI is 49 points up.
Economic news

The NAB Quarterly Australian Residential Property Survey shows a strong surge in foreign buyers for new homes. While the overall index was unchanged, Queensland overtook Victoria as the strongest state with WA still suffering from post-mining boom woes. Foreign buyers lifted to 16.8 per cent of total demand for new property up from 10 per cent a year ago. The national outlook for house prices for the next two years has improved across the country however rental growth expectations have declined. 
Company news
Mortgage Choice Limited (ASX:MOC) is off to a cracking start to the new financial year with a 12.5 per cent lift in home loan approvals for the first quarter. Mortgage Choice says part of the spike can be attributed to an increase in loan writers with numbers lifting from 510 to 556 loan writers across the nation. CEO Michael Russell said that only one quarter into the new financial year the company is seeing solid growth in gross profit not only in the core mortgage broking business but in the financial planning business as well. Mr Russell expected to achieve another year of good growth in cash profits for the group. Shares in Mortgage Choice closed 8.33 per cent up at $2.60. 
National Australia Bank Limited (ASX:NAB) has announced the final pricing of its Great Western Bank (NYSE:GWB) IPO. GWB common stock is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange tonight local time under the ticker GWB. The offer comprises of 16 million shares or 27.6 per cent of GWB’s outstanding common stock at $US18 per share. NAB expects to realise around $US288 million from the sale and plans to sell 100 per cent of its ownership over time so it can concentrate on building a stronger core Australia and New Zealand franchise. Shares in NAB closed 0.99 per cent stronger at $32.54. 
Rio Tinto Limited (ASX:RIO) has reported a solid third quarter performance with a 12.5 per cent lift in iron ore production. 
Automotive retailer A. P Eagers Limited (ASX:APE) says it’s on track to post a record underlying profit of up to $104 million for 2014. 
Blood plasma company CSL Limited (ASX:CSL) has announced another on-market share buyback to the tune of $950 million.
And Silicon Valley-based human resources start up 1-Page Limited (ASX:1PG) listed on the ASX in a reverse takeover. 
Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was telco services adding 1.6 per cent to close at 1,890. The worst performing sector was energy, losing 1 per cent to close at 13,228 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was ARB Corporation rising 5.29 per cent to close at $12.93 after announcing a special dividend of $1.00 per share. Shares in Echo Entertainment and Qantas also closed higher.
The worst performing stock was Atlas Iron, dropping 7.06 per cent to close at $0.40. Shares in DrillSearch and Senex also closed lower.

Gold is trading at $US1,227 an ounce. Light crude is $3.90 lower at $US81.84 a barrel. The Australian dollar is buying 87.26 US cents.