AFTERNOON REPORT (2.30pm AEDT)
Finally some Christmas cheer for investors, with the stock market closing higher on the last trading day before the break. It was a shortened trading day, the market closed at 2pm AEDT. The All Ordinaries Index (XAO) added 49.9pts or 1.2pct to 4192 while the S&P/ASX 200 Index (XJO) was firmer by 496pts or 1.2pct to 4140.4.
Sentiment was boosted by a strong reading on the US jobs front, which alleviated some worry about the overall global economy. Weekly jobless claims, or the amount of Americans who lined up for unemployment benefits last week, fell to a three and a half year low, boosting offshore markets.
The recovery was broad based, with the National Australia Bank (NAB) firmer by 1.3pct to $23.70 and index leader BHP Billiton ( BHP ) up 1.4pct to $35.15.
Retail stocks enjoyed a much needed comeback after a horror week for the sector in which we have seen downgrades from Billabong ( BBG ), Kathmandu (KMD) and JB Hi-Fi (JBH). Shares in BBG firmed by 1.1pct today to $1.80 while KMD was up 7pct to $1.31. However shares in David Jones (DJS) were down 0.8pct to $2.43.
Gloucester Coal (GCL) shares rose 22pct to $8.55 as details of the much anticipated takeover of the company were released to the market. In what's being called a reverse takeover by China's Yanzhou Coal, the company's largest shareholder, Singapore's Noble Group has agreed to accept the $2.2 billion merger. It will see the Chinese owned Yancoal Australia become the largest stand-alone coal miner on the Australian stock exchange. Gloucester Coal shareholders will receive shares in the new entity, along with $3.20 in cash per share if they accept the offer.
Shares in printing and publishing supplier Paperlinx (PPX) rose 8.6pct to $0.088 on reports the company has received a takeover proposal from an unnamed private equity firm. It's understood Paperlinx has hired UBS as an advisor and has told the market it will provide an update in due course.
The Australian dollar ended the day's trade at US101.75c, £00.6483 and €77.84c.
On the market overall, a total of 999 million shares were traded, worth $4.34 billion. 552 were up, 295 were down and 312 were unchanged.
At 2.30pm AEDT on the ASX24, the futures contract was at 4131, up 48pts.
Ahead tonight, new home sales, durable goods orders and personal income and spending data are released in the US.
Juliette Saly, CommSec Analyst
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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.