The euphoria surrounding the US Federal Reserve's latest efforts to stimulate the global economy continued to impress local investors today. US and European markets rallied on Friday, with the Dow Jones Index and S&P 500 both hitting highs not seen since December 2007. Japanese markets were closed today for a public holiday, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell into the red. By close, the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) edged higher by 11.6pts or 0.3pct to 4421.8, its highest level since early May.
Men watch the stock board at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in central Sydney
Financial and mining stocks were the best performers. Shares in Macquarie Group (MQG) were higher by 1.7pct to $29.45 while BHP Billiton (BHP) added 2.5pct to $34.15.
Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) remains in a trading halt, after plunging sharply during Thursday's trade on debt concerns. FMG last traded at $2.99 and is expected to update the ASX tomorrow.
Construction group Macmahon Holdings (MAH) was also placed in a halt amid expectations of a downgraded earnings forecast. Macmahon will update its earnings guidance following a deterioration in the financial performance of its construction business and is believed to be also experiencing uncertainty about the outlook for new construction work. The trading halt is expected to lift before the start of trade on Wednesday. MAH, which is 20pt owned by Leighton Holdings (LEI),
reported a 45pct rise in full year net profit to $56.1 million for the 12 months to June 30. MAH shares closed at 53 cents on Friday. Meanwhile, shares in LEI today rallied by 8.4pct to $17.05.
Casino operator Echo Entertainment Group (EGP) today reported an 11pct surge in total gross revenue for the first 10 weeks of fiscal 2013. EGP said most of the revenue came from high rollers at its Sydney The Star Casino, while revenue from its Queensland properties was down in the period. EGP shares closed steady at $4.12.
In economic news today, an index on luxury cars has highlighted the conservative nature of Aussie consumers. The CommSec Luxury Car index fell by 1pct in the year to August. In rolling annual terms, luxury cars now represent 5.7pct of all passenger car sales, a two-year high, driven by higher real wages and improved car affordability.
New car sales rose by 3.6pct in August in seasonally adjusted terms after falling by 1.1pct in July. Sales of sports utility vehicles hit record highs in the 12 months to August.
According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average retail petrol price fell by 3.5 cents to 143.9 cents a litre in the past week. CommSec tips prices to rise by 2-3 cents a litre over the coming fortnight.
The Australian dollar eased from six month highs against the greenback of US106.2c to finish the day's trade at US105.31c. It was also worth £0.6495 and €80.25c.
On the market overall, a total of 1.7 billion shares were traded, worth $4.3 billion. 479 were up, 486 were down and 335 were unchanged.
At 4.30pm AEST, the SFE 200 Futures was at 4399, up 7pts.
The Dow Jones Futures market was at 13557, down 35pts.
Ahead tonight, the New York Fed manufacturing index is issued.
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