Resources pull market out of the red

THE sharemarket closed slightly higher yesterday in a big turnaround from the previous day as cautious investors were encouraged by better Chinese manufacturing data.

THE sharemarket closed slightly higher yesterday in a big turnaround from the previous day as cautious investors were encouraged by better Chinese manufacturing data.

At the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 4.3 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4133.2.

The market closed 1.7 per cent lower on Monday amid renewed fears about the European debt crisis and the end of Australia's mining boom.

Lonsec analyst Michael Heffernan said resource stocks pulled the local indices out of the red yesterday after the release of data showing China's manufacturing downturn had bottomed. "That was a spur for the resources sector," Mr Heffernan said. "People are keeping their hands in their pockets and we're still subject to information out of Europe."

While 14 of the top 20 Australian companies were in positive territory, anaemic turnover continued to be a feature of the local market as high-yielding stocks remained in favour.

BHP Billiton gained 38? to $30.93 while Rio Tinto was 24? lower at $51.76. Fortescue Metals Group suffered steep falls in morning trade before regaining ground to close 1? lower at $4.04.

Beleaguered Brazil-focused miner Mirabela Nickel gained 1? to 25? after announcing it remained on track to deliver on its production forecast but would shed several hundred jobs.

Meanwhile, Oil Search says it is close to deciding on partners for its natural gas exploration assets in resource-rich Papua New Guinea, and was 2? higher at $6.60.

In the retail sector, shares in troubled surfwear brand Billabong surged 19.5 per cent to $1.31 after it received a second, but substantially lower, takeover offer from US private equity firm TPG valuing the company at $695 million.

Shares in garage doors, windows and building products maker Alesco were down 2? at $2.01 as it announced a $13.9 million loss for its 2012 financial year. The company is subject to a $210 million takeover bid from DuluxGroup, which finished 3? weaker at $2.97.

Gold closed at $US1577.20 an ounce in Australian trading, up US85? on Monday's close.

National turnover was 1.59 billion securities worth $3.19 billion, with 342 stocks up, 557 down and 370 unchanged.

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