Retailers and health stocks lift market

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Petrina Berry
(Australian Associated Press)

Well-received earnings reports from Woolworths, Coca-Cola Amatil and private hospital operator Healthscope have helped lift the share market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index gained 0.24 per cent on another busy day of earnings results.

With Commonwealth Bank sharply lower as it traded without its dividend on Wednesday, the market held up well, OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said.

“Woolworths has been the real surprise today; the market really liked its comparable sales,” Mr Le Brun said.

“Wall Street did give us a strong lead but there’s been a firm focus on earnings today and there’s been a lot to digest.”

Gary Huxtable, client adviser at Atlantic Pacific Securities, said stronger sales reported by Woolworths improved sentiment in the consumer staples sector, contributing to gains for Coles owner Wesfarmers.

He said the market also withstood soft official construction data and wages growth figures.

“Whilst the construction data came in below economists’ expectations, it was an improvement of the recent trend,” he said.

The Australian dollar also gained ground, rising by 0.21 US cents to 76.91 US cents.

Woolworths gained 4.4 per cent to $26.63 after posting a turnaround $725.3 million half-year profit, while Wesfarmers added 1.8 per cent

Bottler Coca-Cola Amatil jumped 5.7 per cent to $10.47 as it announced a $246.1 million full-year profit – down 37 per cent largely due to writedowns – and announced a revamp of manufacturing including shutting its Adelaide production plant.

Commonwealth Bank dropped 2.6 per cent while its rivals rose by between 0.4 and 0.75 per cent.

BHP Billiton dropped 0.7 per cent despite declaring a larger than expected dividend and returning to a half-year profit after the close of trade on Tuesday

Rival Rio Tinto added 0.6 per cent and Fortescue Metals shed 2.7 per cent despite more than tripling its interim dividend and posting a $1.2 billion half-year profit.

The Australian dollar defied soft wages growth and construction data to rise to 76.91 US cents at 1700 AEDT, from 76.70 US cents on Tuesday.

ON THE ASX AT THE CLOSE:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 gained 14.1 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 5,805.1 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index added 14.7 points, or 0.25 per cent, to 5,850.1 points.

* The March SPI 200 futures contract was up 35 points at 5,774 points, with 27,150 contracts traded.

* National turnover was 3.5 billion securities traded, worth $7.6 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 76.91 US cents, from 76.70 on Tuesday

* 87.24 Japanese yen, from 87.10 yen

* 72.93 euro cents, from 72.46 cents

* 61.51 British pence, from 61.61 pence

* 107.39 New Zealand cents, from 107.17 NZ cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,235 per fine ounce, up $US1.40 from $US1,233.60 on Tuesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

* CGS 5.25 per cent March 2019, 1.8608 pct, from 1.842pct

* CGS 4.25pct April 2026, 2.7825 pct, from 2.747pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* March 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.135 (implying a yield of 2.865pct), from 97.17 (2.83pct) on Tuesday

* March 2017 3-year bond futures contract at 97.93 (2.07pct), from 97.95 (2.05pct)

(*Currency closes taken at 1700 AEDT previous local session, bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session)

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