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Aust stocks open slightly lower

The Australian market opened slightly lower despite US "fiscal cliff" negotiations appearing to take a positive step over the weekend.

At 1023 AEDT on Friday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had fallen 13.2 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 4,569.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had dropped 11.4 points, or 0.25 per cent, to 4,583.7 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was seven points lower at 4,574 points, with 14,406 contracts traded.

IG Markets analyst Cameron Peacock said the Australian market had opened slightly lower despite negotiations between the US Democrats and Republicans to avoid a series of tax hikes and spending cuts coming into affect on January 1, otherwise known as the "fiscal cliff", appearing to take a positive step on the weekend.

"Over the weekend there has been a bit of progress in `fiscal cliff' negotiations," he said.

"For the first time the Republicans have acknowledged that tax rates may have to go up for some of the wealthiest Americans."

US stocks fell on Friday amid worries about Washington's budget impasse over the looming fiscal cliff, with a sharp drop in heavyweight Apple weighing on the Nasdaq.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 35.71 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 13,135.01.

The broad-market S&P 500 fell 5.87 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 1,413.58, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite shed 20.83 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 2,971.33.

In Europe on Friday, Frankfurt's DAX 30 added 0.19 per cent to 7,596.47 points on Friday, while in Paris the CAC 40 was flat at 3,643.28 points.

Locally, the mining giants opened in positive territory as iron ore prices continued to rise.

BHP Billiton was up 17 cents to $36.24, Rio Tinto gained 31 cents to $63.31 and Fortescue added 11.5 cents to $4.425.

Fortescue had announced that it was considering selling a small interest in its rail and port infrastructure.

In economic news on Monday, Reserve Bank of Australia assistant governor, financial markets, Guy Debelle is scheduled to speak at an Australasian Finance and Banking Conference.

The Housing Industry Association will release its state and national outlook for property markets.

National turnover was 267 million securities worth $466.7 million, with 272 stocks trading up, 289 down and 270 unchanged.