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Aust stocks close slightly lower

The Australian market closed slightly lower, amid renewed scepticism about the Greek bailout deal and avoiding the US fiscal cliff.

Investors turned their attention instead to defensive stocks after the resources sector fell.

At close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 9.5 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 4,447.3 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 10.8 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 4,462.6 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 16 points lower at 4,457 points, with 17,650 contracts traded.

RBS Morgans Brisbane senior private client adviser Bill Chatterton said the Australian market had recovered slightly from the morning session led by gains in defensive stocks, after the resources sector fell.

"There's been more of a focus on those stocks that have less volatile earnings," he said.

Telstra closed four cents higher at $4.33 while healthcare company CSL was up 29 cents, or 0.58 per cent at $50.30.

The mining giants all posted losses.

BHP Billiton finished 20 cents down at $34.00, Rio Tinto dived $1.08 to $56.70 and Fortescue slumped five cents to $3.80.

Among the major banks, National Australia Bank gained five cents to $23.88, ANZ was up one cent at $23.82 and Westpac added 14 cents to $25.03.

Commonwealth Bank fell 24 cents to $58.98.

The Australian market took its early lead from a disappointing night on Wall Street where the Dow fell 0.69 per cent, or 89.24 points, to 12,878 over nervousness about political negotiations over the US fiscal cliff.

Locally, national turnover was 1.505 billion shares worth $3.418 billion, with 386 up, 569 down and 363 unchanged.