Aust shares edge higher

The share market has overcome early falls and weaker than expected Chinese economic data to post a small gain.

The market opened in negative territory following losses on Wall Street on Friday, but strengthened in the afternoon.

That was despite Chinese manufacturing data showing activity contracted in March to its weakest rate in eight months, the latest indication that the world's number two economy is slowing down.

"Overall it's a pretty flat day and the market's taken that Chinese release in its stride," Morgans private client adviser Alistair McCorquodale said.

The big miners managed to hold on to gains, while grocery retailers and health care providers suffered losses after the release of the Chinese manufacturing data, he said.

BHP gained 16 cents to $35.74, Rio Tinto added 13 cents to $61.50 and Fortescue Metals rose by 11 cents to $5.09.

The major banks were also firmer, with Commonwealth Bank adding 29 cents to $75.95, ANZ rising 15 cents to $32.40, National Australia Bank gaining 20 cents to $34.87 and Westpac edging two cents higher to $33.62.

Macquarie Group was a strong performer, adding $1.59, or 2.9 per cent, to $56.42 after it said its annual profit was set to rise by up to 45 per cent.

Outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu added 35 cents, or 11.3 per cent, to $3.45 after its first half profit rose by 10 per cent.

Retailers Woolworths fell 21 cents to $35.59 and Wesfarmers dipped 11 cents to $41.59, while in the healthcare sector, Cochlear dropped $1.71 to $57.25 and Ramsay Health Care lost 58 cents to $48.24.


* At the close on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 8.8 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 5,346.9.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 8.1 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 5,362.1.

* The June share price index futures contract was 20 points higher at 5,348, with 23,673 contracts traded.

* National turnover was 1.9 billion securities worth $4.04 billion.

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