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AAP

2013-01-09

The Australian market closed higher to end a three day run of losses and defy market falls in the US and Europe overnight.

At the close on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 17.9 points, or 0.38 per cent, higher at 4,708.1, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 17.8 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 4,730.1.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 15 points higher at 4,680, with 21,658 contracts traded.

Most sectors finished higher, with financial and industrial sector stocks the better performers.

The four major banks closed mixed.

National Australia Bank jumped 26 cents to $25.35 and Westpac gained 23 cents to $26.51.

However, ANZ fell 15 cents to $25.02 and Commonwealth Bank had a relatively flat day gaining only three cents to $61.40.

Commsec market analyst Steve Daghlian said it was a solid session considering negative sentiment surrounding the release of figures showing Australian retail spending slumped 0.1 per cent in November, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"Most of the market had been expecting an at least modest improvement in spending," he told AAP.

"It wasn't to be and was a bit of a disappointment."

Major chain retailers posted slight improvements for the months but their shares were punished, including Myer who dropped six cents, or 2.7 per cent, to $2.16, Harvey Norman shed 4.5 cents, or 2.3 per cent, to $1.905 and David Jones gave up one cent to $2.39.

JB Hi-Fi bucked the trend, lifting by nine cents to $10.63.

Mr Daghlian pointed out that market sentiment would have been boosted by a second consecutive monthly rise in new home sales, with the release of Housing Industry Association (HIA) figures showing a 4.7 per cent rise in November.

Aluminium maker Alcoa kicked off the US earnings season after Wall Street closed, delivering fourth quarter earnings in line with expectations and forecasting slightly higher demand for aluminum in 2013.

Locally listed shares in Alumina, a joint venture partner with Alcoa, were up 4.5 cents, or 4.6 per cent, at $1.025.

The big miners had only modest gains, despite further rises in iron ore prices.

BHP Billiton rose eight cents to $37.58 and Rio Tinto gained 21 cents to $66.81 but Fortescue closed flat at $4.74.

The spot price of gold in Sydney closed at $US1,663.01 per fine ounce, up $US13.71 from Tuesday's local close of $US1649.30.

National turnover was 1.49 billion shares worth $3.48 billion, with 505 stocks up, 399 down and 395 unchanged.

Greg Roberts