Strongest and weakest on the ASX today

The S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) started off strongly as trading recommenced following the Christmas break, climbing as high as 5365.3 points before settling back at just above the 5340 point level, a 0.3% gain.

The retailers are performing strongly following reports that more than $2 billion went through the tills yesterday as consumers splurged on discounted goods. This led Australian Retailers Association representative Russell Zimmerman to believe that the total amount spent over the period could have exceeded the $15.1 billion that had previously been forecast.

Harvey Norman (ASX: HVN) is up 0.4%, while Myer (ASX: MYR) and David Jones (ASX: DJS) are up 0.9% and 0.3% respectively. Wesfarmers (ASX: WES) and Woolworths (ASX: WOW) are also trading in the black, having gained 0.8% and 0.4%.

Each of the major banks have recognised gains today, with Commonwealth Bank (ASX: CBA) leading the way, trading up 0.7%. Shares in Westpac (ASX: WBC), ANZ (ASX: ANZ) and NAB (ASX: NAB) have also risen, trading up between 0.2% and 0.4%.

The market’s overall gains followed a strong performance in the US overnight, which saw the Dow advance for the sixth consecutive session.

Today’s strongest:

  • Forge Group (ASX: FGE) has risen 13.5%, with its shares climbing back over the $1 mark.
  • Sirius Resources (ASX: SIR) has gained 5.7%.
  • NIB Holdings (ASX: NHF) has hit a fresh all-time high of $2.62 per share following its 8c or 3.2% gain.

Today’s Weakest

  • Boart Longyear (ASX: BLY) has fallen 4.7% to 40.5c, taking its total loss for 2013 to 78%.
  • Ausdrill (ASX: ASL) has dropped 3.7%.
  • Metcash (ASX: MTS) shares have also fallen by 3% after going ex-dividend. Its shares now offer a 7.2% fully franked dividend yield.

Foolish takeaway

While the market experienced its slowest start to December in 40 years, it has finished the year off strongly. Shares mightn’t be trading at the discounts that they were, but there are still plenty of attractive opportunities if you know where to look!

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman owns shares in NIB Holdings.

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