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European woes keep investors cautious

THE sharemarket closed marginally higher yesterday as investors remained cautious despite changes of leadership in Italy and Greece.

THE sharemarket closed marginally higher yesterday as investors remained cautious despite changes of leadership in Italy and Greece.

At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 8.1 points, or 0.19 per cent, at 4304.6.

IG Markets analyst Chris Weston said caution had taken hold later in the day.

The market opened strongly and rose by as much as 1.5 per cent before falling away later in the day.

"There's no conviction in this market and volumes have been woeful," Mr Weston said.

Turnover was 1.81 billion shares worth $3.95 billion, with about two shares rising for every one that fell on the S&P/ASX 200 Index.

Investors had looked at the political developments in Greece and Italy with a "glass half-empty" approach amid concerns about European Central Bank bond issuances.

The big resource stocks were relatively mixed, with BHP Billiton down 30? at $37.50 and Rio Tinto up 77? at $68.62.

Fortescue Metals rose 5?, or 1 per cent, to $4.87.

Steel maker BlueScope Steel added $1.50 to $78.50.

Africa-focused uranium miner Paladin Energy posted a much bigger net loss for the September quarter than a year earlier after booking an impairment charge for its Kayelekera mine in Malawi.

Paladin shares were 12? higher at $1.61.

Among the big banks, ANZ lost 4? to $20.66, Commonwealth Bank rose 27? to $49.86, Westpac was 1? firmer at $21.05 and National Australia Bank was down 2? at $24.56.

Qantas shares were 3? higher at $1.64 after chief executive Alan Joyce said he was hopeful the airline would reach agreement with workers by next Monday's deadline.

Fertiliser and explosives maker Incitec Pivot shares were down 5? at $3.47.

Paint maker DuluxGroup predicted it would be more profitable in fiscal 2012 after shrugging off challenging conditions to increase its 2011 underlying profit by 13 per cent. DuluxGroup shares were up 6? at $2.75.

Rural services and trading company Elders posted a $395.4 million annual loss but forecast an improved performance for this financial year. Its shares were down 1.5? at 24?.

Orica shares were down 73?, or 2.8 per cent, at $24.97 as details of ammonia leaks from its Kooragang Island plant in Newcastle become the subject of community and political concern. The Kooragang Island plant has been shut since Wednesday.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1792.89 an ounce, up $US26.66 from Friday's local close of $US1766.23.


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