The S&P / ASX 200 Index (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) has finished flat at 5,129.5 points after an initial surge led by local bank results. On Wall Street, both the US S&P500 and Dow Jones Industrials indices saw gains of 0.9%, suggesting the Australian market was headed higher. By the end of the day, three of our four major banks were in the red.
The Australian dollar is slightly higher against the US dollar, now buying 102.6 cents.
These three stocks were the best performers in the top 20.
Macquarie Group Limited (ASX: MQG) climbed 10.7% to close at $43.05, after smashing analysts forecasts of a 10% rise in net profit. The investment bank recorded a 17% increase in net profit to $851 million for the 2013 financial year. Macquarie pointed to an even better result in 2014, subject to market conditions, and raised the final dividend to $1.25, taking the total dividend for the year to $2.00. For dividend hungry investors, that appeared to be a signal to pile in.
CSL Limited (ASX: CSL) added 1.6%, finishing at $62.60. News that the blood plasma giant had restarted production of its influenza vaccine for the Australian market, thanks to higher demand this season. In the first two weeks of April, the company noted significant demand jumps in both public and private markets. Higher sales of flu vaccines could see the company beat the 20% plus growth it achieved in the last financial year.
Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) saw its shares rise 1.1% to end at $54.45, despite iron ore prices falling below US$140 a tonne overnight. Rio is heavily leveraged to the price of the main steel-making ingredient, with around 90% of its earnings in 2012 attributable to iron ore. That could grow as the company sells off non-core operations like its diamond assets, and reduces the size of its coal and aluminium divisions. Rio remains one for investors with a strong belief that the miner can operate for some time through lower iron ore prices.
With its legendary, fully franked 28 cent dividend, Telstra is the darling of Aussie investors. Chances are even if you don’t own Telstra shares directly, your superannuation fund does. But with its share price skyrocketing over the past year, is Telstra past its prime? Click here for our brand-new report: Buy, Sell, or Hold Telstra?
The Motley Fool’s purpose is to help the world invest, better. Click here now for your free subscription to Take Stock, The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King owns shares in CSL.