EVENING REPORT (4.30pm AEST)
The Australian sharemarket maintained most of its gains this afternoon to close near six-year highs and improve for the fifth straight day. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) closed above the 5,500 point mark for the first time in 2014, with the XAO rising by 0.64 per cent to 5502.2.
Quarterly inflation rose by a less than forecast 0.6 per cent in the March quarter (0.8 per cent was expected), taking CPI over the year to 2.9 per cent. Despite this being at the upper end of the Reserve Bank's 2-3 per cent target band, it makes it more likely the RBA will feel comfortable to keep rates on hold for at least the next few months. CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said that "At present inflation is not a threat to the economy, meaning that the Reserve Bank can comfortably keep interest rates at exceptionally low levels over the near term. However as the Reserve Bank has highlighted in recent commentary, the medium term outlook for inflation has certainly shifted higher and this is one likely reason that policymakers are no longer talking down the Aussie dollar and seem more comfortable with the Aussie holding between US90-95c."
All sectors finished higher by the close, with the IT sector the standout in percentage terms (up 2.2 per cent). Computershare (CPU), the largest company in the sector was the main contributor to the gains despite no news.
The banks maintained their gains, with the big four adding 13.53pts (accounting for 38 per cent of the All Ords's rise) to the market's improvements. Westpac (WBC) rose by 0.94 per cent, ANZ Banking Group (ANZ) jumped by 0.94 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank (CBA) was the biggest improver after rising by 1.26 per cent to $79.01. CBA was trading around $79.30 in November last year.
Uranium miner Paladin Energy (PDN) finished flat despite a disappointing quarterly report today. PDN shares are still down by around 90 per cent since the start of 2011. Uranium prices together with the commodity's producers have failed to recover since Japan's nuclear disaster in March 2011. BHP closed at $38.20, rising by 0.5 per cent, while the smaller Rio Tinto (RIO) rose by 0.08 per cent.
Volume was relatively strong considering the shortened trading week, with 1.55 billion shares traded, worth $4.54 billion. 527 stocks are higher, 389 are in the red and 366 are flat.
Looking ahead, 'flash' manufacturing data will be issued in Europe and the U.S. tonight. 38 of North America's largest listed companies will be issuing quarterly profit results tonight. This will include market darlings Apple and Facebook.
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