Brakes applied after a flying start

THE sharemarket shed most of its gains for the day to finish marginally higher yesterday, as investors shifted their focus from positive US economic growth data to tepid global corporate earnings.

THE sharemarket shed most of its gains for the day to finish marginally higher yesterday, as investors shifted their focus from positive US economic growth data to tepid global corporate earnings.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 4.5 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4476.9.

The main sectors, materials, financials, energy and consumer staples, all ended between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent higher. Health and telecommunications slipped 0.5 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

US gross domestic product figures, which came in at a 2 per cent annual rate for the third quarter, were a surprise for investors after the previous quarter had seen growth of 1.3 per cent.

The signs of a recovery in the world's largest economy helped the sharemarket get off to a quick start, said Wealth Within investment analyst Janine Cox. "If you look over the period back to 2008 when they were negative, and you look at everything that has happened after that, they've managed, for the most part, to maintain the positive," said Ms Cox.

A surge in gains over the past few weeks saw the ASX move above 4500, but the rise was cut back last week as the market consolidated the recent winning streak.

"The 4500-point mark is critical for our market," Ms Cox said. "Our market has been so strong over the past few weeks, it's just accelerated away from the trend, so I see this as part of a move back in towards the overall angle of the trend."

There was little activity in the big miners, with BHP trading relatively flat at $33.83, while rival Rio Tinto added 0.8 per cent to $56.92.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals lost 0.5 per cent to finish at $4.03. Iron ore was trading marginally lower, at $US119.60 a tonne.

Media stocks were at opposite ends of the spectrum yesterday, with Fairfax Media the best performer on the ASX 200 and Ten Network the worst. Fairfax jumped 7.8 per cent to 41.5?, while Ten fell 3.6 per cent to 26.5?.

"[Fairfax] is due to bottom out roughly where it is, but one week up on the market is not a turn of price direction," Ms Cox said.

"We've got to see two or three consecutive weeks up to at least have an indicator that Fairfax is moving again."

She said that if Fairfax could move above 45?, it had a good chance of pushing out of its record lows and showing investors that it had turned a corner.

Among the banks, ANZ traded flat at $25.23, CBA fell 0.1 per cent to $56.79, NAB lost 0.2 per cent to $25.86 while Westpac added 0.2 per cent to finish at $25.25.

Commonwealth Bank will hold its annual meeting today and NAB will report its full-year earnings tomorrow.

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