SYDNEY, AAP – Australian share market investors have looked beyond the first US rate rise in four years to push the ASX and dollar higher.

The local market rose more than one per cent and followed Wall Street higher after the Federal Reserve complemented its quarter of a per cent rate hike with a dose of economic optimism.

Foreign exchange traders pushed the Australian dollar to 73 US cents as they tipped the Reserve Bank to follow and raise rates this year.

They were further encouraged by Australia’s unemployment rate falling to its lowest level in more than 13 years. The jobless rate was four per cent for February.

Yet the main news was the Federal Reserve’s rate increase and prediction that equivalent hikes will be needed at every meeting this year to stamp out inflation.


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CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said markets rallied because the rate hike was well-flagged and Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell was upbeat on the economy.

Powell played down the chance of a recession and said the economy was strong enough to withstand higher rates.

In Europe, Russia and Ukraine continued peace talks but the conflict which sent commodity prices soaring earlier this month continued.

Wall Street’s rally ensured ASX technology stocks prospered. They were best on the market and gained three per cent.

Afterpay owner Block, which is tied to the radical price movements of Bitcoin, rocketed 10 per cent to $157.50.

There were gains of one per cent for shares in materials, industrials, healthcare, financials and telecommunications.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 75.6 points, or 1.05 per cent, to 7250.8 points.

The index is down about 400 points from its record high in August last year.

The All Ordinaries index closed higher by 85.8 points, or 1.15 per cent, to 7521.6 points.

In ASX company news, Australian Pharmaceutical Industries shareholders voted overwhelmingly to accept Wesfarmers’ $753 million takeover bid.

Shareholders of the Priceline pharmacy operator accepted the offer of $1.53 per share.

API was little changed at $1.53.

Wesfarmers also moved little to $50.64.

James Hardie will build a manufacturing plant in Melbourne to provide fibre cement products to the region.

The company has purchased land for its third manufacturing site in Australia. No costs were given.

James Hardie was up two per cent to $46.70.

Ampol has been cleared by a New Zealand regulator to buy fuel provider Z Energy.

Ampol must sell its New Zealand Gull fuel business to make the purchase, the competition watchdog ruled.

The Australian fuel provider plans to sell Gull for $475 million to investment manager Allegro.

Z Energy has approved Ampol to buy each of its shares on the New Zealand stock exchange for $NZ3.78 each.

On the ASX, Z Energy was up less than one per cent to $3.50.

Ampol was higher by three per cent to $29.67.

In mining, Fortescue Metals benefited from a higher iron ore price. Its stock rose four per cent to $18.17. BHP and Rio Tinto were each one per cent higher.

In banking, ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank and NAB each gained one per cent. Westpac was little changed at $23.68.

The Australian dollar was buying 73.08 US cents at 1709 AEDT, higher from 72.09 US cents at Wednesday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 75.6 points, or 1.05 per cent, to 7250.8 points on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries index closed higher by 85.8 points, or 1.15 per cent, to 7521.6 points.

* At 1709 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was even at 7218 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 73.08 US cents, from 72.09 cents on Wednesday

* 86.81 Japanese yen, from 85.45 yen

* 66.28 Euro cents, from 65.85 cents

* 55.55 British pence, from 55.35 pence

* 106.80 NZ cents, from 106.54 cents.