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MELBOURNE, Dec 24 AAP

December 24 2012, 10:52AM

Australian shares made a positive start on Monday despite falls on Wall Street on Friday as the US economy edges toward the so-called fiscal cliff.

At 1040 AEDT on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 20 points, or 0.43 per cent, at 4,643.6, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 18.5 points, or 0.40 per cent, at 4,653.7.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up 33 points at 4,625 with 4,888 contracts traded.

All major sectors were up, including resources, financial and industrial stocks.

US stocks sunk in the absence of a deal to avert a package of tax rises and spending cuts - referred to as the "fiscal cliff" - due to begin on January 1.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Friday's session down 120.88 points, or 0.91 per cent, at 13,190.84.

But by the end of Friday's session on Wall Street, US futures had started to recover, which was the reason for the early gains on the local market, IG Markets market strategist Stan Shamu said.

"That fiscal cliff is the main issue now before they reconvene on Thursday (December 27) to try and knock something up," Mr Shamu told AAP.

"We will probably tread water and maintain tight ranges until we get something more definitive at the end of the week."

A rising iron ore price due to stronger Chinese demand is also supporting the larger miners on the Australian market, he said.

Resources giant BHP Billiton was up 16 cents to $36.86, Rio Tinto had climbed 42 cents to 65.16, but iron ore producer Fortescue Metals was down one cent at $4.37.

Among the banks, ANZ shares had improved two cents to $24.97, Commonwealth Bank had increased 33 cents to $62.33, Westpac added four cents to $26.21 while National Australia Bank was 5.5 cents lower at $24.885.

Shares in mining contractor Macmahon Holdings fell after it said it expected to make just $2 million on the $14 million sale of its construction business to Leighton Holdings, due to $12 million in redundancy costs.

Macmahon shares gave up 0.5 cent to 23 cents.

Billabong shares were also half at cent weaker after the troubled surfwear retailer Billabong said it would allow its latest suitor, former board member Paul Naude, to conduct due diligence on the company.

Billabong shares were at 82 cents.

It will be a shortened trading day in Australia, with the market closing at 1430 AEDT ahead of the Christmas Day holiday on Tuesday.