market wrap for today

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    Sydney - Wednesday - November 16: (RWE Aust Business News) -

    The Australian sharemarket closed firmer today on the back of strong buying among the banks.

    The All Ordinaries index ended 15.3 points ahead at 4560.2 and the ASX200 index gained 17.9 points to 4621.1.

    On the economic front the Bureau of Statistics reported total hourly rates of pay excluding bonuses rose by 1 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in the September quarter.

    In futures the December SPI200 contract rose 14 points to 4631.

    Trading was busy with turnover of $3.5 billion, comprising 520 rises, 477 falls and 340 steadies.

    Telstra was the day's most active stock with 144.6 million shares worth $581.5 million changing hands in erratic trading as investors continued to digest yesterday's long-awaited business strategy and profit

    The stock finished steady at $4.02 after trading between $4.08 and $3.94 - its lowest price since March 2003.

    Miners lost ground with BHP Billiton down 11c at $21.42 and Rio Tinto declined 36c to $60.60 after an early rally to a record $61.50, while Alumina dropped 12c to $7.34.

    Among the banks Commonwealth advanced 39c to $41.98 and Westpac improved 34c to $22.88 - both reaching record highs of $42 and $23.01 respectively - while ANZ climbed 40c to $23.90 and National gained 30c to $33.50.

    St George Bank rose 5c to $29.04 and touched a record $29.11, Macquarie Bank advanced $1.45 to $69.95, AMP added 6c to $7.53 and QBE was 41c higher at a record $19.32.

    Lend Lease rose 12c to $14.27, Bluescope Steel slid 12c to $7.34, Boral gained 12c to $8.02 along with Rinker to $15.75, Amcor shed 4c to $7.22, Paperlinx declined 10c to $3.30, Centennial Coal dropped 17c to
    $3.58, Telecom NZ advanced 13c to $5.71, PBL was 19c weaker at $16.40, Unitab gained 23c to $12.67, Wesfarmers advanced 51c to $37.40, Leighton
    climbed 30c to $16.60 and hit a record $16.80 as did Woolworths which peaked at $17.47 before settling 22c stronger at $17.39, Coca-Cola Amatil declined 19c to $7.66 and Sonic Healthcare fell 30c to $14.21.

    Virgin Blue rose 15c to $1.82 after reporting a 33pc fall in net profit to $105 million for the year to September, and declaring a maiden dividend of 25c per share.

    Also in the news was ABC Learning Centres, which soared to a record $7.49 and closed 43c higher at $7.13 after announcing it will acquire the third-largest child care centre in the US for $218 million.

    Austbrokers Holdings made a strong debut to the trading list, with its $2 shares opening at $2.22 and touching $2.25 before closing at $2.21. Almost nine million of the 50 million shares on issue changed

    Woodside Petroleum lost 27c to $31.98 in oil and gas, Caltex slipped 19c to $20.32, Oil Search was down 3c at $3.17 and Santos shed 2c to $11.20.

    Goldminers also missed out with Newcrest sliding 23c to $19.19, Newmont declined 5c to $5.92 and Lihir fell 6c to $2.

    In Tokyo the Nikkei 41 points firmer at 14,133 and Hong
    Kong's Hang Seng had risen 24 points to 14,652.

    New Zealand's NZSE50 rose 23.1 points to 3334.8.

    Gold is worth $US472 oz and the Australian dollar is fetching US73.06c.

    Ten-year bond yields were one point easier at 5.435 per cent.
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