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Aust shares close slightly higher

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AAP

2013-01-21

The Australian share market has closed slightly higher following a firm finish by United States markets on Friday.

On Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 6.3 points, or 0.13 per cent, at 4,777.5 points, and the broader All Ordinaries index was 7.5 points, or 0.16 per cent, higher at 4,802.2 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract lifted three points to 4,743 points, with 15,180 contracts traded.

CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said the local market was exhibiting a firm tone given the stronger US market and reflected the relentless rallying experienced over the last two-and-a-half months.

"Today (Monday) I think the market has just centrally positioned itself prior to tomorrow's Bank of Japan meeting," Mr Spooner said.

Mr Spooner said it was generally expected that the Bank of Japan would set an inflation target of two per cent, and meeting this target would require substantial economic stimulus.

This would be supportive for world growth in general and the Asian region in particular.

Markets in the United States will be closed overnight for a public holiday.

Mr Spooner said there was little happening in Australia until the release of inflation figures on Wednesday.

On the local market on Monday, among the major banks, the National Australia Bank added 50 cents to $26.85 amid speculation that Spanish banking giant Santander was considering making a $3 billion bid for NAB's UK business.

The Commonwealth Bank dumped 26 cents to $62.20, Westpac lost 11 cents to $26.48, and ANZ gained 10 cents to $25.69.

Elsewhere in the financial services sector, shares in global insurer QBE rose 39 cents to $12.14 amid speculation it could axe 700 jobs to reduce costs.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton firmed four cents to $36.54 ahead of the release of fourth-quarter earnings results later this week. Rio Tinto lifted 10 cents to $66.45.

Gold producer Perseus sagged 8.5 cents to $1.955 after it announced that managing director Mark Calderwood would step down after nine years at the helm.

Among other companies, recycler Sims Metal Management dived 50 cents, or 5.01 per cent, to $9.48, after the company warned that fraud may have occurred at two of the group's electronics recycling sites in the United Kingdom.

The price of gold in Sydney was $US1,690.11 per fine ounce,down $US1.54 on Friday's closing price of $US1,691.65.

National turnover was 1.6 billion securities worth $3.03 billion, with 550 stocks up, 452 down and 331 unchanged.