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Stocks edge higher as investors look for direction

THE sharemarket pared back earlier gains yesterday to close slightly higher.

THE sharemarket pared back earlier gains yesterday to close slightly higher.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 11 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 4307.5, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 12.8 points to 4382.7.

BBY institutional dealer Stewart Palmer said volumes were below average as investors turned to major markets for guidance.

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

"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," he said.

The market opened higher on the back of strong gains on Wall Street overnight.

Shaw Stockbroking senior dealer Jamie Spiteri said recent rises on offshore bourses had helped stabilise the local market.

"We're seeing a bit of consistency and stability emerging in offshore markets in comparison to recent volatility, and that enabled our market to gain a bit of traction," he said.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton was 13? higher at $39.87.

Rio Tinto was up 56? at $73.08 after it appointed former BHP chief financial officer Chris Lynch to its board as a non-executive director.

Telstra shares were 3? higher at $3.06 after the telecoms company told shareholders it would be almost $5 billion better off under its structural separation plan than if it competes with the National Broadband Network.

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

The major banks were mixed, with ANZ down 2? to $20.27 and Commonwealth Bank 14? lower at $48.08. National Australia Bank rose 13? to $23.85 and Westpac was 12? higher at $20.72.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1817.70 per fine ounce, down $US15.35.


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