RTTNews - The Australian market ended in positive territory for the fourth successive day on Friday, but well off their highs, as traders preferred to lock in gains ahead of the weekend. The recent gains have been built on the back of positive corporate earnings in the U.S reviving hopes that the worst for the U.S economy might be nearing an end.

In the U.S., stocks ended in positive territory for the fourth consecutive session as buying interest returned to the market in the afternoon session amid the release of better-than-expected results from JP Morgan (JPM). Earlier in the day, traders digested a Labor market report that showed a the drop in weekly jobless with a pinch of salt amid suspicion of skewness in the data.

Separately, the National Association of Home Builders released a report showing an increase in homebuilder confidence in the month of July, with homebuilders seeing an improvement in current sales conditions. Traders also digested a report from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia which showed that the index of manufacturing activity in the Mid-Atlantic region fell by more than economists had been expecting.

The Dow closed up by 95.61 points or 1.1% at 8,712, the Nasdaq climbed by 22.13 points or 1.2% to 1,885 and the S&P 500 rose by 8.06 points or 0.9% to 941.

The All Ordinaries Index opened unchanged from its previous close at 3,988 and surged higher to a high of 4,017 in early trading. However, traders preferred to lock in gains ahead of the weekend, with the resultant selling dragging the indices lower. The index ended the day with a gain of 5.1 points, or 0.13% at 3,993. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index followed a similar trend and ended at 4,001, representing a gain of 0.12% or 5.20 points.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that export and import prices dropped at record pace in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, mainly due to the appreciation of Australian dollar. The export price index dipped 20.6% sequentially in the second quarter, the largest quarterly fall since the series began in the September 1974 quarter. This comes after a 4.6% fall in the first quarter, and faster than economists' expectations of a 16% drop. At the same time, import prices fell 6.4% sequentially in the three months ended June, marking the biggest quarterly decrease since the series began in the September 1981 quarter.

Light sweet crude oil for August delivery ended the Asian trading session at $61.74, down 28 cents, after ending Thursday's session in New York at $62.02, up $0.48 a barrel on expectations of rise in energy demand.

Energy stocks led the gains following higher crude oil prices in the international market. Woodside Petroleum gained 2.90%, and Santos advanced 1.51%. However, Oil Search remained unchanged from its previous close.

Mixed trend was witnessed among metal stocks. Rio Tinto edged up 0.15%, and BHP Billiton added 0.83%. However, Fortescue Metals slipped 2.00%, Iluka Resources lost 2.96%, and Mincor Resources fell 3.72%. Macarthur Coal declined 2.01% on profit taking.

Gold stocks also ended in negative territory. Lihir Gold lost 1.71%, Newcrest Mining edged down 0.16% and Sino Gold Mining fell 1.15%.

Banking stocks ended on a mixed note. ANZ Bank added 0.66%, Commonwealth Bank Australia edged up 0.20% and Westpac Bank rose 0.40%. However, National Australia Bank bucked the trend and lost 0.67%.

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