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Market loses traction after overseas leads

THE sharemarket pared earlier gains to close slightly higher yesterday, buoyed by telecom stocks.

THE sharemarket pared earlier gains to close slightly higher yesterday, buoyed by telecom stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 11 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 4307.5.

BBY institutional dealer Stewart Palmer said volumes were slightly below average as investors turned to major markets for guidance with the Australian reporting season now over.

"The market traded in a pretty narrow range all day, everything was a little stronger.

"I think [following] the results season, everyone's looking for a lead from somewhere. I don't know where it's going to come from, probably from economic data from our trading partners."

The market opened higher after gains on Wall Street but fell back after initial optimism derived from better than expected capital expenditure figures began to wane.

US stocks overnight gained on better than expected manufacturing data from the country's industrial heartland.

Shaw Stockbroking senior dealer Jamie Spiteri said recent overseas gains had helped the Australian market stay solid.

"We're seeing a bit of consistency and stability emerging in offshore markets in comparison to recent volatility," he said. "That enabled our market here in Australia to gain a bit of traction, in particular the resources sector."

Among the miners, BHP Billiton was 13? higher at $39.87. Fellow miner Rio Tinto was up 56? at $73.08 after it appointed former BHP Billiton chief financial officer Chris Lynch to its board.

"Despite all the fluctuations of recent weeks, commodity prices have continued to remain fairly steady and that does give some degree of optimism that the resources sector has still got underlying appeal," Mr Spiteri said.

Telstra shares closed 3? higher at $3.06 after the telco told shareholders it would be almost $5 billion better off under its structural separation plan than if it competed with the national broadband network.

Qantas shares closed 2.5?, or 1.6 per cent, higher at $1.595 after ratings agency Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on the airline to stable from negative, based on the airline group's new international strategy.

The big four banks were mixed, with ANZ dipping 2? to $20.27 and Commonwealth down 14? at $48.08 while National Australia Bank firmed 13? to $23.85 and Westpac rose 12? to $20.72.

The spot gold price finished the Australian session down $US16.37 at $US1816.68 an ounce.

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