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The Australian equity market closed moderately higher today, although it did ease from a stronger open - with the main leads coming from Wall Street overnight.
Investors around the world waited on the latest speech from the Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who reiterated that the central bank's tapering of monetary stimulus was not on a "preset course", with the possibility of reducing the monthly bond purchases or keeping them steady for a longer period dependant on how the economy evolves.
Investors took a positive from this, with U.S. and European equities stronger.
The Australian All Ords added 0.2% today to close at 4977, with much of the recent volatility in the market not present today - and helping the major miners was an increasing iron ore price.
At China's Tianjin port the benchmark import price of 62% iron ore fines gained $1.40 to trade at $130.40 a tonne, which is the highest price in almost three months.
The major miners reacted, and Fortescue Metals Group (ASX: FMG) may have ended flat at $3.71, but the stock was up 4% at one stage for an intra-day high of $3.85, before some investors took some money off the table. The company was below $3 at the start of the month.
Adding to the rally was Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) with a 1% gain to $56.70, with BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) edging up 0.1% to $34.22.
The volatility continued for Newcrest (ASX: NCM), with a 4.5% drop to $10.95.
The big four banks rise
The big four banking sector was higher across the board, led by National Australia Bank (ASX: NAB) which rallied 1% to $30.34, while Westpac (ASX: WBC) added 0.9% to $29.70, and Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA) gained 0.7% to $71.74. ANZ Bank (ASX: ANZ) was up 0.5% to $28.95
Financial stocks mixed
There was a mixed bag for the remainder of the financial sector. The only Tier 2 bank in positive territory was the Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ) with a 0.2% gain to $9.06. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (ASX: BEN) fell 0.7% to $10.28, as Suncorp (ASX: SUN) eased 0.2% to $12.65.
A bright spot was AMP (ASX: AMP) which jumped 1.5% to $4.73, while investment bank Macquarie Group (ASX: MQG) was lower by 0.5% to $44.10. Yield-play Telstra (ASX: TLS) gained 0.8% to $4.87
The retailers had contrasting days, with Wesfarmers (ASX: WES) heading north 0.6% to $39.12, as Woolworths (ASX: WOW) headed south 1.1% to $33.32.
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