THE sharemarket finished modestly higher, well off the day's peak, after weaker than expected Chinese trade figures raised fresh concerns over the slowing of the world's second-largest economy.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 6.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4557.9, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 6.5 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4562.4.
Among the sectors, materials did most of the heavy lifting, up 0.9 per cent. Goldminers added 0.6 per cent and financials inched up 0.2 per cent.
Health stocks struggled, dropping 1.5 per cent, energy slipped 0.3 per cent and consumer staples lost 0.4 per cent.
Patersons Securities strategist Tony Farnham said good performances from base materials in the United States and Britain, as well as China's factory output rising to an eight-month high, helped lift mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto added 1.9 per cent to $61.30, while BHP edged up 0.6 per cent to $34.95.
"Any of these partial indicators that indicate the Chinese economy has found a floor in terms of the growth slowdown we've seen of late is well received by the market," Mr Farnham said.
But a later release of data from China showed that exports rose in November at a much weaker rate and imports were flat compared with the previous year. Chinese exports rose just 2.9 per cent from a year earlier, well below expectations of 9 per cent.
As a result, the local market shed much of its gains after the announcement.
Ten Network shares were the biggest loser for the day, down 9.1 per cent to 24.5?, after the broadcaster resumed trading following its deeply discounted $230 million capital raising. The drop was expected after it sold shares to institutions at 20? each.
Southern Cross Austereo also struggled, falling 5.9 per cent to $1.04, after it pulled all advertising from its 2Day FM unit due to the growing controversy surrounding two of its hosts and their prank call to a London hospital.
Elsewhere in the media, Fairfax Media dropped 1.1 per cent to 45.5?, Seven West Media lost 0.3 per cent to $1.58, while News Corp bucked the trend, adding 0.7 per cent to $24.42.
Fortescue Metals jumped 6.9 per cent to $4.05 as the miner continued its efforts to reduce debt by preparing to sell down its stake in a joint venture with BC Iron.
The Pilbara junior will pay Fortescue $190 million for an extra 25 per cent of the project.
Among the banks, Westpac rose 0.6 per cent to $25.90 and NAB added 0.3 per cent to $24.58. CBA was relatively flat at $60.90 and ANZ slipped 0.2 per cent to $24.84.