ASX finishes higher as mining and energy stocks lead way

It was a choppy day of trade on the share market as investors bet some disappointing manufacturing data might prompt more action from China’s central bank.

Overnight, the People’s Bank of China cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves by 50 basis points, in a bid to boost the country’s flagging economy.

Official and private measures of activity in China’s manufacturing sector both fell in February, raising hopes of more stimulus.

But some heavyweight stocks traded ex-dividend, dragging on the broader market.

By the close, the All Ordinaries index was 0.8 per cent higher at 4,990 and the ASX 200 index had added 0.9 per cent to finish on 4,922.

Mining and energy stocks led the way after a rise in commodity prices overnight.

Whitehaven Coal added 10 per cent to finish at 61 cents and Fortescue Metals jumped by 6.4 per cent to $2.17.

The big four banks also rallied with ANZ faring the best, up 3 per cent to $23.07.

Telecommunications giant Telstra dropped 4.8 per cent to $5 as it traded ex-dividend, and media company Fairfax Media dropped 3.3 per cent to 75 cents, also trading ex-dividend.

But Slater and Gordon had the biggest losses of the day.

The law firm tumbled by 45.7 per cent to 32 cents, a day after revealing a near $1 billion loss.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank kept the official interest rate on hold again at the record low of 2 per cent.

The RBA said it would continue to watch whether the recent turbulence on financial markets would drag on the global and domestic economies.

Economists say any future change to interest rates depends on whether the jobs market keeps improving.

The Australian dollar dipped after the release of some weaker than expected trade data, but recovered after the RBA’s rates decision.

At 5pm (AEDT) it was buying 71.4 US cents, 65.6 euro cents, 80.4 Japanese yen and 51.2 British pence.

Spot gold jumped to $US1,244 an ounce and oil was slightly higher, with Brent crude fetching $US36.62 a barrel.

[Source:- Newsau]