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SYDNEY, Jan 29 AAP

January 29 2013, 12:30AM

The Australian share market has continued to strengthen, with major banks and healthcare stocks leading the gains.

At 1210 AEDT on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 40.7 points, or 0.84 per cent, at 4,875.9 and the broader All Ordinaries index was up 39.7 points, or 0.82 per cent, at 4,876.6.

If the positive momentum is maintained throughout Tuesday's session the market will have posted nine straight days of gains, taking it to a new 20-month high.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was nine points higher at 4,842 with 15,297 contracts traded.

Local investors were catching up with gains made on world markets since last Friday, as the Australian bourse was closed for a public holiday on Monday, IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu said.

"It's quite encouraging to see the market put in such a performance," he said.

"But, the worrying factor is the defensive stocks are outperforming the general market, which generally points toward some sort of caution or lack of confidence."

Defensive stocks are those less affected by economic or cyclical factors.

The healthcare sector was the strongest performer on Tuesday, with CSL up $1.82, or 3.4 per cent, at $54.87 and Cochlear adding $1.35, or 1.7 per cent, to $82.42.

The major banks were also higher, with Westpac up 44 cents at $27.99, Commonwealth up 75 cents at $64.34, National Australia Bank up 31 cents at $27.55 and ANZ 31 cents higher at $26.38.

Insurers were the worst performers, due to the impact of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald on coastal areas of Queensland and NSW.

Suncorp says it has so far received about 4,500 claims, and expects more to come as floodwaters in some parts are yet to peak.

Suncorp shares were down 25 cents, or 2.3 per cent, at $10.66, while Insurance Australia Group was down 10.5 cents, or 2.1 per cent, at $4.815 and QBE was 29 cents lower, down 2.5 per cent, at $11.30.

Resources stocks were also down, due to lower commodity prices and the impact on operations of heavy rain in Queensland.

BHP Billiton was down one cent at $37.09, Rio Tinto was down 29 cents at $65.77 and Fortescue was eight cents higher at $4.64.

Coal miner Yancoal was down half a cent to 92.5 cents after it said its production would be reduced for at least three weeks after heavy rain at two of its open cut mines in Queensland.

National turnover at 1219 AEDT was 813.2 million shares worth $2.05 billion.