Australian shares hit five-year highs

The ASX climbed today to its highest level since June 2008.
The ASX climbed today to its highest level since June 2008.

Australian shares are at fresh five-and-a-half-year highs as smaller investors join the market.

Banking and resources stocks are in firmer territory, following strong gains on Wall Street on Friday night.

But low interest rates in Australia are encouraging mum and dad investors to belatedly buy into the market, says Dale Gillham, the chief analyst with financial services group Wealth Within.

"They're just chasing better yields...mum and dad would generally be the last people to get into the market," he said.

The local market on Monday morning climbed more than half a per cent to its highest level since June 2008, following gains on US and European markets at the end of last week as US government services were re-opened.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton was 37 cents higher at $36.12, Rio Tinto was up 45 cents at $63.90 and Fortescue Metals Group had gained 11 cents to $5.41.

The big four banks were all stronger, with Westpac up 25 cents to $34.25, ANZ 33 cents higher at $32.19, National Australia Bank climbing 34 cents to $36.32 while the Commonwealth Bank had jumped 32 cents to $74.49.

Woolworths was 76 cents, or 2.24 per cent, higher at $34.72 while Telstra was half a cent higher at $5.035.

Meanwhile, Warrnambool Cheese and Butter gained 22 cents, or 2.79 per cent, to $8.11 after it announced it would seek shareholder approval to grant $175,000 in performance rights to its chief executive David Lord, despite opposition from suitor Bega Cheese.

KEY FACTS

* At 1200 AEDT on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 35.4 points, or 0.67 per cent, higher at 5,356.9 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 35.5 points, or 0.67 per cent, at 5,356.5.

* The December share price index futures contract was 25 points higher at 5,346, with 9,294 contracts traded.

* National turnover was 658 million securities worth $1.1 billion.

-AAP

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