The Australian sharemarket was in the red for most of the day, only to surge in late trade. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) rose by 0.17 per cent, with only the mining, telco and utility sectors finishing lower.
U.S. and European markets recorded uninspiring moves overnight, with the DOW slipping by 0.4 per cent, the UK's FTSE fell 0.5 per cent and Germany's DAX eased by 0.1 per cent. The U.S. central bank issued its monthly meeting minutes overnight, suggesting that Federal Reserve members are generally expecting better economic growth this calendar year. A stronger than estimated private sector jobs report last night did little to boost U.S. equity markets.
The retailers were the standouts today, with much firmer than forecast retail spending numbers creating a sense of optimism throughout the industry. Spending in November rose by 0.7 per cent; making it seven straight months of gains. Annual spending is up 4.6 per cent and is a further sign that Australians are feeling more upbeat with their spending at retail outlets. The big names significantly outperformed the broader market in 2013. JB Hi-Fi jumped by 107 per cent, Harvey Norman (HVN) gained 66 per cent and department store owners Myer (MYR) and David Jones (DJS) both gained by 28 per cent.
The big banks were mixed, with Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and National Australia Bank (NAB) both improving by a modest 0.15 per cent while ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) and Westpac (WBC) lost around 0.3 per cent.
There were also further positive signs for housing, with the number of approvals granted to developers by councils to construct properties rising by 6 per cent in November (a three-year high). This shows that developers are taking steps to increase supply sufficiently enough to meet demand.
Qantas (QAN) was downgraded by Moody's today, largely due to increased competition, deterioration of its domestic core business and the airline flagging the likelihood of a $300 million half year loss. QAN said it wasn't surprised with the downgrade and rose by 1.82 per cent.
It was yet another quiet day from a volume perspective, with just 1.9 billion traded, worth $2.9 billion. 477 stocks rose, 420 finished lower and 347 were unchanged.
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