The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index managed to close 0.4 per cent higher for the week. Photo: Rob HomerAustralian shares recorded their sixth straight week of gains, even as American shares fell to their lowest since March on growing concerns that the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates as early as June.

Although falling short of last week’s highs above 5400, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index nevertheless managed to increase 0.5 per cent on Friday and 0.4 per cent for the week to close at 5351.3. The broader All Ordinaries lifted 0.5 per cent on Friday and 0.3 per cent over the week to close at 5415.2.

It was not, however, a broad-based gain with the four sectors finishing in the red – utilities, industrials, consumer discretionary and telcos. Healthcare, mining, energy, financial, consumer staples and information technology stocks recorded gains.

The blue-chip miners did well over the week, with BHP Billiton putting on 3.6 per cent to $18.85 and Rio Tinto 0.9 per cent to $45.04. That was despite iron ore falling by about $US1 over the period to $53.47, including a sharp 5.8 per cent slump on Thursday night.

The Brent crude oil price gained over the Friday session to climb 2.6 per cent to $US49.05 a barrel for the week.

The banks were mixed over the week: Westpac Banking Corporation rose 1.6 per cent to $30.28; National Australia Bank fell 5.7 per cent to $27.29 as it traded ex-dividend; Commonwealth Bank edged up 0.9 per cent to $78.12; ANZ firmed 4 per cent to $25.09. Telstra, however, sank 0.3 per cent to $5.66.

Two developments this week shored up the case for a US rate rise next month, which weighed on global equity markets.

The first was data showing rising US inflation while the second was minutes from the US Federal Reserve’s April meeting, which suggested markets were may be underestimating the chances of tighter policy in the coming months.

The US money market’s probability of a June hike move is up to 28 per cent from close to zero only a week or so ago.

“The Fed is clearly edging towards another rate hike, with the June meeting “live” for a hike and a move in the summer looking likely,” said AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver. “The minutes from the Fed’s last meeting were far more hawkish than the statement released immediately after the meeting.”

Mr Oliver noted that, with the recent gains, the Australian sharemarket was the best-forming major share market in 2016.

“The Australian share market is the only major global share market to be up this year,” he said.

Friday’s big corporate news was Oil Search has agreed to acquire InterOil in a cash and scrip offer worth $US2.2 billion ($3 billion). Oil Search shares fell 1.2 per cent to $6.83.

Metcash was one the week’s best performer after increased speculation over a deal that will allow its Mitre 10 business to merge with Home Timber & Hardware and form a new hardware competitor to the Bunnings behemoth.

Metcash rocketed 15.5 per cent to $2.01.

​Other top performers were healthcare stocks, in a week where the sector index hit an all-time record after the government flagged plans to control rents for pathology companies.

The fourth-best performer on the S&P/ASX200 index was Primary Health Care, which shot up 9.1 per cent to $3.60. Ninth-best performer was Sonic Healthcare, soaring 6.2 per cent to $21.65.

On the downside, regulatory uncertainty in China forced a courier company to suspend Australian infant formula deliveries from Wednesday in a worrying sign for one of Australia’s fastest growing exports.​

The changes are likely to hurt sales for Bellamy’s Organic, which is popular in China, and Blackmores, which recently launched its own brand of infant formula in partnership with Bega Cheese.

Blackmore’s was the worst performer in the benchmark index, crashing 12.6 per cent to $158.69, while Bellamy’s plummeted 11.3 per cent to $10.36.

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