Wall Street leads as stocks close higher

THE sharemarket closed firmer after a positive lead from Wall Street on encouraging comments by US politicians about avoiding the "fiscal cliff".

THE sharemarket closed firmer after a positive lead from Wall Street on encouraging comments by US politicians about avoiding the "fiscal cliff".

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 30.4 points, or 0.68 per cent, at 4477.7, while the broader All Ordinaries Index rose 27.5 points, or 0.62 per cent, to 4490.1.

RBS Morgans Ipswich manager Tony Russell said the market closed at its highest point of the day after gains by the big miners and banks.

Wall Street posted good gains, spurred by encouraging remarks from US President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner on averting looming tax rises and spending cuts that could push the economy into recession, the so-called "fiscal cliff".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 0.83 per cent higher at 12,985.11, snapping two days of losses. Locally, the big miners started the day mixed but all closed strongly. BHP Billiton closed 21? higher at $34.21, despite angry shareholders at its annual meeting accusing the company of hoarding $5 billion in surplus cash when it should be paying a special dividend.

Rio Tinto gained 48? to $57.18 after announcing plans to cut spending and make savings worth billions of dollars in the next few years. Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals added 6? to $3.86.

The four big banks also gained strength. ANZ finished 27? higher at $24.09, National Australia Bank gained 7? to $23.95, Westpac jumped 20? to $25.23 and Commonwealth Bank surged 46? to $59.44.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday showed Australia's mining investment boom might be peaking earlier than expected as resource companies rein in capital spending plans.

National turnover was 1.6 billion securities worth $4.11 billion.

The price of gold in Sydney closed at $US1719.62 an ounce, down $US19.86.

The dollar was trading higher at US104.67?, up from US104.48?.

Meanwhile, bond futures prices were little moved, despite a weaker capital investment outlook.

UBS interest rate strategist Matthew Johnson said bond futures edged higher following the release of capex figures that showed a downwards revision to spending plans for 2012-13.

Prices then dropped back but he said bond futures should be well supported overnight.

The December 10-year bond futures contract was at 96.86 (implying a yield of 3.14 per cent), down slightly from 96.865 (3.135 per cent). The three-year contract was trading at 97.33 (2.67 per cent), unchanged.

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