Defensive stocks keep bourse in black

THE sharemarket closed marginally higher yesterday after a trading session in which defensive stocks shone.

THE sharemarket closed marginally higher yesterday after a trading session in which defensive stocks shone.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 4.7 points at 4510.5, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 2.9 points at 4533.5.

The market defied a weak lead from Wall Street to open in positive territory and managed to hold on to gains through the day in quiet trading.

It was the defensive parts of the market that kept the bourse in the black, offsetting some weakness in resource-related sectors.

Property was the best performing sector on the market yesterday, rising 1.43 per cent.

Mirvac, which reaffirmed earnings guidance for the full 2012-13 year, rose 2.5?, or 1.64 per cent, to $1.545.

Westfield Retail Trust, which announced a deal that swapped interests in seven shopping centres with AMP Capital, rose 8?, or 2.62 per cent, to $3.13.

"The defensive lead is being bought up on yield and earnings certainty over riskier plays," CMC Markets trader Ben Taylor said in a research note. "After a couple of days of falls this week progress is going to be slow."

Other defensive sectors such as telecoms (up 0.97 per cent), healthcare (up 0.56 per cent) and consumer staples (up 0.16 per cent) also had a good day.

On the downside, gold stocks slipped 2.48 per cent and metals and minerals slipped 0.39 per cent.

Goldminer Newcrest fell 48?, or 1.81 per cent, to $26.01. Newcrest chairman Don Mercer told shareholders at the company's annual meeting the miner was targeting 3 million ounces of gold production annually within the next few years.

In other news, ANZ said net profit for the year to September 30 rose 6 per cent to $5.66 billion due to improved performances from most of its businesses and cost reductions from job cuts. ANZ shares fell 22? to $25.38.

The other big retail banks finished mixed CBA advanced 22? to $57.30 and NAB rose 10? to $26, while Westpac dipped 1? to $25.26.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1707.70 an ounce, up US84? from Wednesday's close.

Meanwhile, the dollar hit a one-week high, amid increased optimism about the Chinese economy and reduced expectations of further domestic interest rate cuts.

Late yesterday the dollar was trading at US103.76?, its highest in a week. ANZ foreign exchange strategist Andrew Salter said that in the absence of any major news, the currency had continued to rally in the wake of Wednesday's local inflation data and Chinese manufacturing figures.

Market turnover was 1.6 billion securities worth $3.6 billion, with 474 stocks up, 456 down and 351 unchanged. AAP

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