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Aust shares tip toe higher on quiet trade

Christian Edwards
AAP
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The Australian share market has opened a quarter of a per cent higher.

The Australian share market has opened a quarter of a per cent higher.

Australian shares have closed slightly higher despite the market giving up most of its early gains, lifted by support for big banks, telcos and healthcare stocks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Monday up 0.13 per cent at 6,130.4 points, with banks and the healthcare sector offsetting a retreat for the miners and oil companies.

Bell Direct equities strategist Julia Lee said post-holiday light trading volumes again allowed the market to drift as afternoon trade slackened.

"This often impacts the four major banks, while the pullback in commodity and oil prices from last week's highs also affected mining and energy companies," Ms Lee said.

Commonwealth Bank, up 0.6 per cent to $81.62, was the best performer among Australia's top four lenders, while the National Australia Bank alone lost ground, down 0.1 per cent to $29.82.

Mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton ended 0.3 per cent and 0.1 per cent lower respectively, while major energy companies closed the day mixed.

Santos made the best of lower oil prices, up 0.5 per cent to $5.58, while Woodside Petroleum shed 0.6 per cent to $34.38.

Leading the gains in a strong session for healthcare companies were Cochlear and Resmed, up 1.2 per cent to $174.20, and 1.5 per cent to $11.15 respectively.

Blood and plasma products maker CSL rose 0.4 per cent to $143.23.

Cannabis product maker Auscann continued its strong run following the green light given to medicinal marijuana producers looking to export, closing 9.4 per cent higher.

Elsewhere, Suncorp shed 1.2 per cent to $13.72 after the insurance giant reckoned claims from Melbourne's December hailstorm would damage first-half results by between $160 million and $170 million.

Telstra gained 0.5 per cent to $3.75, while telco sector peer Vocus Group lifted 12 cents, or 3.8 per cent, to $3.29 after announcing Bellamy's chairman John Ho was on-board as a non-executive director.

The Australian dollar fell from commodity inspired multi-month highs after lunch against a US dollar also softened by disappointing US jobs data.

The local currency was trading at 78.41 US cents at 1700 AEDT on Monday, from 78.48 on Friday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 8.1 points, or 0.13 per cent, at 6,130.4 points

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 6.8 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 6,236.5

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 7 points, or 0.12 per cent, at 6,081 points

* National turnover was 4.5 billion securities traded worth $3.8 billion

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 78.41 US cents, from 78.48 on Friday

* 88.78 Japanese yen, from 88.67 yen

* 65.23 euro cents, from 65.02 euro cents

* 57.84 British pence, from 57.84 pence

* 109.36 NZ cents, from 109.71 cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,317.75 per fine ounce, from $US1,320.23 per fine ounce on Friday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.9772pct, from 1.9724pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.5969pct, from 2.5827pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* March 2018 10-year bond futures contract at 97.345 (implying a yield of 2.655pct), from 97.360 (2.640pct) on Friday

* March 2018 3-year bond futures contract at 97.880 (2.120pct), from 97.895 (2.105pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)