EVENING REPORT (5pm AEDT)
The Australian share market has closed at its highest level since mid-June 2008, spurred on by better than expected economic growth numbers and a strong rally on Wall Street during Tuesday's trade.
The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) finished at 5457 points, while the ASX 200 closed at 5446.
The Australian economy picked up pace in the December quarter, rising by 0.8 per cent after a 0.6 per cent increase in the September quarter. The GDP number was at the upper end of expectations, with the economy growing at a 2.8 per cent annual pace, only modestly below the decade average growth of 3 per cent.
The biggest contributions to growth came from net exports (+0.6 percentage points) followed by household consumption (+0.4pp), inventories and public investment (both +0.2pp) and government consumption (+0.1pp). The biggest drag on growth was non-dwelling construction (-0.2pp).
In company news, Coles announced plans to spend $1.1 billion opening 70 new supermarkets across the country over the next three years. The expansion plan is expected to create 16,000 jobs. Wesfarmers, the owner of Coles, rose one per cent today to $43.15.
Qantas (QAN) shares rose on the close, adding 0.4 per cent to $1.14, after significant selling in the stock since posting its $252 million loss last week. Labor and the Greens have said they will block legislation to change the Qantas Sale Act in the Senate, as proposed by the Abbott government earlier this week.
Carsales.com (CRZ) fell 0.6 per cent to $10.51 as it traded ex-dividend. The company today announced plans to acquire a further three per cent stake in iCar Asia, taking its total stake to 22.9 per cent.
On the market overall, a total of 2.8 billion shares changed hands, worth $6.2 billion. 588 were up, 372 were down and 375 were unchanged.
Ahead tonight, the ADP employment index and ISM Services Index is released in the US.
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