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AAP

2013-01-23

The Australian share market closed higher after BHP Billiton's production report exceeded expectations and weak inflation figures drove up high yielding stocks.

At the close on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 8.7 points, or 0.18 per cent at 4,787.8, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 9.2 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 4,812.1.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 11 points higher at 4,753, with 24,652 contracts traded.

IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas said the main driver of the market on Wednesday was BHP Billiton's production report which beat expectations with iron ore production of 42.19 million tonnes for the three months to December 31, up three per cent on the prior corresponding period.

BHP shares surged 1.31 per cent, or 48 cents, to $37.06.

"Obviously all eyes were on BHP and all the news in it was there was no bad news," he said.

It was all very well flagged to the market but the market still saw it as a very good reason to move forward with BHP after it eased off over the last two weeks."

Mr Lucas said disappointing CPI figures saw high yielding stocks such as Telstra, Westpac and ANZ rise as speculation of another interest rate cut in the first half of 2013 increased.

Australia's consumer price index (CPI) rose just 0.2 per cent in the final three months of 2012, to be up 2.2 per cent for the year, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday show.

Underlying inflation was at 0.55 per cent for the December quarter and 2.3 per cent for the year.

Telstra added one cent, or 0.22 per cent, to $4.51, ANZ jumped 28 cents, or 1.09 per cent, to $25.94 and Westpac gained 26 cents to $26.75.

The other major banks also performed well with Commonwealth Bank adding 13 cents to $62.67 and National Australia Bank gaining 16 cents to $26.75.

Rio Tinto fell 44 cents to $66.45 and Fortescue put on two cents to $4.66.

Sydney gold closed at $US1,692.35 per fine ounce, down $US1.47 from Tuesday's close of $1,693.83.

National turnover was 1.66 billion shares worth $4.386 billion, with 484 stocks up, 463 down and 346 unchanged.

Kylie Williams