Australian stocks have pushed higher on the back of strong gains for bank, healthcare and utility stocks, as some good news on China’s economy lifted spirits.
The All Ordinaries Index added a third of a per cent to close at 5,374 while the ASX 200 gained 17 points to finish on 5,373.
Bank stocks led the way; the Commonwealth Bank closed up 1.3 per cent to $75.58 and ANZ added 1.3 per cent to $32.37.
Retail shares were in focus; a solid performance by Coles supermarkets helped boost first quarter sales for its owner, Wesfarmers.
Coles’s sales rose by 4.9 per cent in the September quarter compared with the same period last year, to $8.9 billion.
Wesfarmers’ hardware chain Bunnings reported a 10.4 per cent rise in sales to almost $2 billion.
Wesfarmers shares slipped 8 cents to close on $41.92.
Coles’s main rival, Woolworths, lost 0.25 per cent to $34.60.
Elsewhere in the sector, the owner of Australian clothing brands such as Bonds and King Gee has warned its full-year profits may come in below expectations.
At its annual general meeting, Pacific Brands chief executive John Pollaers told shareholders that trading conditions have been tough.
He said net profits were likely to be down on last year because of weaker sales.
Pacific Brands shares shed 3.4 per cent to 72 cents.
Embattled gold miner Newcrest finished down 1.6 per cent to $10.91 on the day of its annual general meeting.
Meanwhile takeover target Warrnambool Cheese and Butter fell 0.25 per cent from record highs as it also held its annual meeting. It closed on $8.15.
Dollar helps lift Reserve Bank profits
In economic news, the Reserve Bank says the fall in the Australian dollar helped lift its profits to a four-year high.
In its annual report, the RBA reveals its statutory profit soared to $4.3 billion last financial year, up from $1.08 billion the year before, helped by a boost in the value of its foreign currency reserves.
But its earnings nearly halved to $588 million, and the central bank says it wants to keep the whole amount to rebuild its reserve fund.
Last year, the former Labor government took $500 million from the fund. On Wednesday, Treasurer Joe Hockey announced a one-off payment of $8.8 billion to replenish it.
The dollar has risen against the greenback after a report pointed to strength in China’s manufacturing sector. About 5pm (AEDT) it was buying 96.7 US cents, 70 euro cents, 94.2 Japanese yen and 59.6 British pence.
Spot gold was lower at $US1,335.25 an ounce, West Texas crude oil closed lower at $US96.89 a barrel, and Tapis crude was also lower at $US116.52 a barrel.