Shares edged higher as resource and health stocks gave the market a pre-Christmas boost after three days of declines.
After several days of snubbing positive leads from Wall Street, the local market belatedly entered the festive spirit in the closing auction. The ASX 200 turned a three-point deficit into a nine-point gain, finishing at 6794. The market closed two hours early for Christmas Eve.
Overnight, US stocks were boosted by China's announcement that it will cut tariffs on a range of imports. The S&P 500 edged up 0.09 per cent to a new record close.
Here, declines in the supermarkets, technology and financials were mostly offset by advances in energy, health and miners.
Gold stocks glittered during a low-key, low-volume session. The precious metal hit a six-week high overnight following disappointing US economic data. Resolute Mining rose 5.9 per cent after advising it had hedged against price declines by forward-selling 30,000 ounce at an average price of $US1,501 an ounce. Gold Road Resource put on 7.7 per cent, Silver Lake 6.5 per cent and St Barbara 4.4 per cent.
Energy stocks rose for the first time in four sessions after retreating from a 14-month peak last week. Beach Energy gained 3.2 per cent, Cooper Energy 1.6 per cent and Woodside 0.9 per cent.
Health sector heavyweight CSL put on 1.3 per cent, Sonic Healthcare 0.3 per cent and Cochlear 0.1 per cent. Remote communications specialist Speedcast was the ASX 200's best performer, climbing 12 per cent.
Coles was among the biggest weight on the index, falling 1.2 per cent. Rival Woolworths lost 0.5 per cent. The big four banks closed mixed but barely changed. Tech stocks were a negative, Xero falling 2.1 per cent, Bravura Solutions 1.8 per cent and Afterpay 1 per cent.
markets were subdued. China's Shanghai Composite ticked up 0.1 per
cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3 per cent and Japan's Nikkei shed 0.1 per
cent. S&P 500 index futures were unchanged.
Brent crude futures advanced four cents or 0.1 per cent this morning to $US66.43 a barrel. Gold rallied $3.80 or 0.3 per cent to $US1,492.50 an ounce.
The dollar was steady at 69.19 US cents.
What's hot today and what's not:
Hot today: mining explorer Rox Resources provided a rare highlight during a lacklustre session after releasing more promising drilling results from its Youanmi gold project in WA. The company said it was very pleased with the "high-grade" results from the south of the project and would conduct follow-up drilling next year. Shares ticked up three-tenths of a cent or 15.8 per cent to 2.2 cents.
Not today: meditech Novita Health has been one of the year's biggest winners, surging 900 per cent to a high of 11 cents last month. Speculators piled into the stock after the company announced its technology for detecting ADHD was eligible for US medical reimbursement. Shares eased 16.7 per cent today to their lowest level in almost eight weeks after the company said it had become aware of a newsletter purporting to contain information about the company's technology. The company said it had not received the communication and was waiting for confirmation of its veracity.