The market pushed ahead despite softer iron ore, oil and gold prices and a stronger dollar as a slew of quarterly reports showed Australian resource producers are continuing to increase supply.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 33.9 points, or 0.6 per cent, on Thursday to 5454.2, while the broader All Ordinaries Index also added 0.6 per cent to 5444.8, with Westpac and Woolworths leading gains while Woodside Petroleum hit its highest price since July 2011.
Local shares took a positive lead after markets in the US and Europe climbed after a speech by US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen reassured investors US monetary policy would remain supportive.
Trading volumes were light before the Easter holiday.
The market will reopen on Tuesday for a three-day week, with Anzac Day falling next Friday. The ASX 200 added 1.8 per cent over the short trading week.
”Shares rallied in Thursday morning trading as investors added a few more eggs into their baskets ahead of the Easter break,” Patersons Securities chief economist Tony Farnham said.
”The local market was not overly fussed by the soft spots apparent in the US economy as evident in the Google and IBM Corp March quarter results released overnight.”
The big four banks all pushed higher on Thursday. Westpac did the most to lift the index, up 1 per cent to $34.94. Commonwealth Bank rose 0.5 per cent to $77.57, ANZ gained 0.7 per cent to $33.88 and National Australia Bank added 0.5 per cent to $35.36.
Woolworths lifted 2.1 per cent to $37.09 as broker UBS upgraded it from a ”neutral” to a ”buy” after an improved-earnings outlook.
Main rival Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, K-Mart, Target and Bunnings, rose 0.6 per cent to $42.98.
Telstra rose 0.6 per cent at $5.13.
Wealth management group Challenger was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, climbing 4.2 per cent to $6.72 after announcing it will launch Whitehelm Capital, with $4 billion under management, in partnership with UK funds manager Access Capital Advisers.
Mining stocks were mostly lower following softer commodity prices and a mixed bag of reports.
BHP Billiton bucked the trend up 0.4 per cent to $38.10, while Rio Tinto was unchanged at $63.37. The two delivered quarterly report this week that met expectations.
Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group dropped 1.1 per cent to $5.33 after its production figures missed analysts’ expectations.