ASX shares end the week on a high

After a choppy week, Friday's trade gave investors a reason to smile

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The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) shrugged off weaker than expected news out of China to end the week on a positive note, with the key S&P/ASX 200 index closing up 1.0 per cent.

Closing at 4,323, the index was only just higher than its pre-Easter close, in a shortened 4-day trading week.

Gains were widespread on the ASX, with share price increases in almost all sectors. Only the Telecomms sector missed out, largely due to a slight decline from Telstra Corporation Limited (ASX: TLS).

The materials led the gains, with a 1.9 per cent advance. Market heavyweights BHP Billiton Limited (ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto Limited (ASX: RIO) were up 0.6 and 1.5 per cent respectively, with no other index components in the red.

Smaller cap companies also contributed to the gains, with the ASX Small Ordinaries holding on to a 1.3 per cent gain in late trade.

Corporate news was largely positive, with Insurance Australia Group Limited (ASX: IAG) announcing an expansion to its Malaysian business, following the lead of compatriot QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX: QBE) which has been on something of an acquisition spree in recent months, picking up business in the UK, Asia and South America. The market didn't seem to react particularly strongly to the news, with IAG's share price largely tracking the market.

Tollroad operator Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) released some positive traffic numbers, which many hope will be indicative of stronger economic activity in the broader economy. Toll revenue was up 5.1 per cent, inclusive of toll increases on some of the company's roads.

Resources companies had a good day, with Intrepid Mines Limited (Australia) (ASX: IAU) leading the gains on the ASX 200, up 11.7 per cent, while Lynas Corporation Limited (ASX: LYC) rose 7.7 per cent, and Mirabela Nickel Limited (ASX: MBN) posted gains of 5.8 per cent.

Only around 1 in 10 of the companies on the ASX 200 was showing losses on the day, led by Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD), airline operator Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd (ASX: VAH), natural gas supplier Energy World Corporation Ltd. (ASX: EWC) and contract engineering business Downer EDI Limited (ASX: DOW), all of which closed off more than 2 per cent down on the day.

The Australian Dollar fell 0.4 cents against the US dollar in the wake of the slower than expected Chinese growth numbers, buying around US$1.04 towards the end of the Australian trading day.

Both the broad market and plenty of individual stocks have been on a roller-coaster ride over the past week, which is exactly why investors need to always stay informed about their favourite stocks. However, investors also need to recognise that daily movements won't make or break a lifetime of saving. Instead, they need to focus on their long-term saving goals.

Luckily, Motley Fool Australia has identified one ASX stock it thinks has all the makings of a long-term winner. Better yet, we made our research report detailing each one of them absolutely free to our readers, so access your free copy today. In "The Motley Fool's Top ASX Stock for 2012", Investment Analyst Dean Morel names his top ASX pick for 2012…and beyond. Click here now to find out the name of this small but growing telecommunications company. But hurry – the report is free for only a limited period of time.

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