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AAP

2013-01-10

The Australian share market closed higher, following an afternoon run on the back of economic data from China showing that exports rose by 14.1 per cent.

At the close on Thursday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 14.9 points, or 0.32 per cent higher at 4,723.0, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 15.1 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 4,745.2.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract gained 14 points to 4,692, with 21,699 contracts traded.

The market was lower at noon but the greater than expected trade surplus in China ($31.6 billion) pleased investors who viewed a booming Chinese economy as good news for Australia, CommSec market analyst Juliette Saly said.

"Everyone else got on board with what that data revealed and what it meant for a bit of a better outlook for China," she told AAP.

Earlier, Australian residential building approvals rose 2.9 per cent to 13,307 units in November, disappointing the market as it was slightly below economists' forecasts and followed poor retail sales data on Wednesday.

The mining giants were mixed.

Rio Tinto lifted 29 cents to $67.10, BHP lost 17 cents to $37.41 and Fortescue gained 11 cents to $4.85.

Australia's largest goldminer Newcrest fell to near six-month lows on the back of recent dips in the gold price.

It dropped 46 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $21.56.

Ms Saly said it was encouraging to see insurance stocks hold up well, indicating property damage from recent bushfires has not been serious enough to worry investors.

IAG climbed 10 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to $4.86 and QBE improved 32 cents, or 2.8 per cent, to $11.79.

Mining contractor Macmahon Holdings gained half a cent to 28 cents after it emerged that India-owned Sembawang Australia had increased its offer to buy the company's construction business.

The four major banks all made gains, with ANZ up 13 cents to $25.15, Commonwealth Bank improved 21 cents to $61.61, Westpac climbed nine cents to $26.60 and National Australia Bank advanced eight cents to $25.43.

The spot price of gold in Sydney closed at $US1,658.38 per fine ounce, down $US4.63 from Wednesday's local close of $US1,663.01.

National turnover was 1.4 billion shares worth $3.28 billion, with 524 stocks up, 403 down and 360 unchanged.

Greg Roberts