Boost from Beijing as shares defy headwinds

China's rapid economic growth slowed in the June quarter to a still robust 9.5 per cent.

AUSTRALIAN shares closed higher after defying weak offshore leads and receiving a boost from better than expected Chinese economic growth data.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rose 19.6 points, or 0.43 per cent, at 4514.8, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 19.7 points, or 0.43 per cent, at 4583.2.

Austock securities strategist Michael Heffernan said the bourse made solid gains. "It was a resolute performance right from the jump-off," Mr Heffernan said.

"Then we listed a bit and then when the Chinese data came out, that gave us a bit of a fuel injection for the afternoon."

China's rapid economic growth slowed in the June quarter to a still robust 9.5 per cent, easing fears of an abrupt slowdown and allowing the government room to clamp down on inflation.

Overseas leads were negative as a credit rating downgrade for Ireland's sovereign debt to junk bond status led to losses on Wall Street.

Locally, gold stocks performed strongly as investors moved into safe-haven assets and defied negative leads from Europe and the US. Gold rose to within sight of its record overnight price, and closed in Sydney at $US1569.04 ($1470.37) per fine ounce, up $US18.61 from $US1550.43 on Tuesday. Gold miner Newcrest was up 25? at $38.96.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp continued its slide as a group of US investors amended their lawsuit against the media company to include Britain's phone-hacking scandal as evidence of a nepotistic corporate culture "run amok".

News Corp was down 45?, or 2.96 per cent, at $14.74 and its non-voting stock was down 28?, or 1.93 per cent, at $14.26.

Among the major banks, National Australia Bank fell 12? to $23.76, ANZ added 8? to $21.16, Commonwealth Bank fell 4? to $49.60 and Westpac steady at $21.14.

Resource major BHP Billiton added 17? to $43.63 and Rio Tinto was down 48? at $80.95.

Rio Tinto-majority owned coal miner Coal & Allied Industries was down 29? at $102.80 after reporting a rise in first half production.

Agricultural chemicals supplier Nufarm was up 8? at $4.56.

National turnover reached 2.07 billion shares, worth $5.36 billion.

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