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Aust stocks finish firmer on CSL injection

The Australian share market has finished firmer after vaccine maker CSL injected confidence and European finance ministers reached a Greek debt bailout deal.

On Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index edged up 32.6 points, or 0.74 per cent, to 4,456.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 29.9 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 4,473.4 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 40 points higher at 4,472 points, with 22,874 contracts traded.

The Australian market's positive run continued after eurozone finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund agreed to release 43.7 billion euros ($A54.63 billion) in loans to Greece.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said the news helped buoy the Australian share market.

"It's been a positive for the market," she told AAP.

But the Australian market underperformed key Asian markets, including South Korea, as the Shanghai Composite Index fell below the 2000-point mark for the first time since 2009.

"That takes the Chinese market to levels not seen since the global financial crisis," Ms Lee said, adding the underperformance stirred concerns about an economic growth slowdown in China, Australia's key trading partner.

Investors instead took their positive cues from CSL, which upgraded its profit guidance for this financial year.

Shares rose to an all-time high of $50.55 during intraday trading, to close at $50.01.

This was after CSL forecast profit after tax growing by 20 per cent, from $US1.02 billion in 2011/12, up from a 12 per cent forecast made in August.

This added six points to the Australian share market.

Health care stocks also vastly outperformed other sectors, growing by four per cent, Iress data says.

"Investors have been liking companies that have been growing their earnings and health care have been growing their earnings," Ms Lee said.

Retail shares, however, were under pressure even though Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey told reporters he expected Christmas sales to be stronger in 2012.

Following its annual general meeting, Harvey Norman shares shed two cents to touch $1.82 but Ms Bell said investors were squaring profits after a strong week for retail stocks.

Among the major banks, Commonwealth Bank added seven cents to $59.22, ANZ gained 24 cents to $23.81, National Australia Bank advanced 13 cents to $23.83 and Westpac put on 13 cents at $24.89.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton was 19 cents richer at $34.20 and Rio Tinto found 57 cents at $57.78.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1,750.04 per fine ounce, down $US0.11 from Monday's closing price of $US1,750.15.

National turnover was 1.441 billion securities worth $3.712 billion, with 483 stocks up, 442 down and 360 unchanged.

On Wall Street on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 42.31 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 12,967.37 points.