Asian recovery lifts shares

THE sharemarket and dollar have been boosted by better-than-expected trade data from China, whose exports grew 14.1 per cent last month compared with a year earlier.

THE sharemarket and dollar have been boosted by better-than-expected trade data from China, whose exports grew 14.1 per cent last month compared with a year earlier.

The S&P/ASX 200 closed 14.9 points higher at 4723 on Thursday after falling at midday. The All Ordinaries Index was slightly up at 4745.2.

"It's a positive sign that the Chinese economy is continuing to recover, particularly the strength we saw in the import numbers, the HSBC chief economist, Paul Bloxham, said. "That bodes well for the Australian economy.

"They are our major trading partner and we're seeing the recovery in China reflected in commodity prices already, particularly the iron ore price, which has risen very sharply ... and that supports Australian income growth."

China's trade surplus rose 48 per cent to US$231.1 billion ($218.9 billion) last year, though trade volume grew at a much slower pace, official data released on Thursday showed. Exports rose 7.9 per cent to $US2.05 trillion, while imports increased 4.3 per cent to $US1.82 trillion.

The Australian dollar rose as high as US105.55¢ on Thursday, while the further weakening of the Japanese yen resulted in the Aussie surging to a 4-year peak of just above 93 yen.

"The dollar exploded higher after the Chinese data [release] ... it's clear there's a recovery going on in east Asian trade," the ANZ currency strategist Andrew Salter said.

Mr Salter said the faltering yen reflected the Japanese government's indications it was set to embark on policies to weaken the yen, from changing the Bank of Japan's mandate to the setting of an inflation target.

The market did not react to data released by the Bureau of Statistics on Thursday that showed a 2.9 per cent rise in building approvals for November, just below expectations of 3 per cent. But private sector housing approvals fell 0.3 per cent for the same month.

The big four banks registered gains. ANZ closed 0.52 per cent higher at $25.15, Commonwealth Bank edged up 0.34 per cent to $61.61, NAB gained 0.32 per cent at $25.43, and Westpac finished 0.34 per cent higher at $26.60.

Among miners, Rio Tinto closed almost 30¢ higher at $67.10, Fortescue gained 11¢ at $4.85, and BHP fell 17¢ to $37.41.