Worries over China slice early gains

THE sharemarket ended slightly higher yesterday, giving up most of strong early gains as concerns about China's economic growth came back into focus.

THE sharemarket ended slightly higher yesterday, giving up most of strong early gains as concerns about China's economic growth came back into focus.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index finished 6 points, or 0.1 per cent, higher at 4283.3 after surging 37 points at the start of the session.

Despite the fall in the benchmark index, the materials sector rose a robust 1.1 per cent and industrials put on 0.8 per cent. Financials fell 0.4 per cent.

The gold sector jumped 2.7 per cent, reflecting a rise in the bullion price as well as a 4.4 per cent gain by Newcrest Mining. Its shares rose $1.07 to $25.40 in response to a 23 per cent jump in full-year profit. At the close of the Sydney session, spot gold was up $US11.32 at $US1624.60 an ounce.

IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu said that, though most of the earnings reports released yesterday were positive, investor sentiment was weighed down by China failing to announce stimulus measures.

"On Friday we saw European markets fall, only to get up on US recovery on speculation that China might announce some sort of stimulus over the weekend," Mr Shamu said. "I think some investors are getting sceptical that we're not going to get stimulus any time soon."

Chinese shares in Shanghai had their biggest daily loss in nearly a month, slumping 1.5 per cent.

Several local stocks notched up fairly big gains, with BlueScope, Downer EDI and JB Hi-Fi releasing better than expected earnings results. UGL and James Hardie, however, were both under pressure.

BlueScope was the day's star performer, closing 9?, or 35 per cent, higher at 35? after the company said it planned to sell half its coated-steel products business to Nippon Steel Corp for $US540 million.

JB Hi-Fi shares rose 53?, or 5.8 per cent to $9.75, after it said full-year earnings had fallen 5 per cent but that it expected sales to grow in the year ahead.

Downer EDI posted a net profit of $112.8 million for the year to June 30, sending its stock up 35?, or 11.2 per cent, to $3.47.

UGL's shares fell $1.37, or 10.6 per cent, to $11.49 after a 15 per cent drop in full-year profit.

James Hardie posted an improved net profit of $US68.5 million for the three months to June 30, but the shares fell 6.1 per cent to $7.77.

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