ASX up mid-session but off highs
ASX up mid-session but off highs

The Australian sharemarket is still in the black mid-session but off its earlier peaks.

At 9.30am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 12.7 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 4349.5, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 11 points, or 0.25 per cent, at 4371.1.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was up 16 points at 4365, with 12,437 contracts traded.

The Australian market received a positive offshore lead from US stocks amid some constructive fiscal cliff negotiations between President Barack Obama and US congressional leaders.

The fiscal cliff refers to the huge tax hikes and spending cuts that will automatically come into force on January 1 if Republicans and Democrats don't reach an agreement on a long-term deficit reduction plan.

Leaders from both parties on Friday met with President Obama, raising investors' hopes that they are willing to compromise.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said that after a 2.8 per cent falls on the Australian Securities Exchange last week, there was always going to be some bargain hunting this week.

"The nice little bit of improving news flow out of the US with the fiscal cliff negotiations seems to be leading the rally," he told AAP.

"It is very much based in the cyclical end of the market."

Most market sectors were higher at noon.

Shares in drilling company Boart Longyear shot up despite it announcing an earnings downgrade, with investors apparently more impressed with the $US70 million ($A68.08 million) cost cutting exercise it has launched.

Boart shares were 14.5 cents, or 11 per cent, higher at $1.44.

Troubled surfwear company Billabong's stock also leapt, climbing eight cents, or 10.8 per cent, to 82 cents after news that its US business head Paul Naude was considering a leveraged buyout of the company.

Among resources stocks, BHP Billiton had improved 23 cents to $33.16, Rio Tinto was down 27 cents to $56.63 and Fortescue Metals was 2.5 cents weaker at $3.875.

The four major banks were mixed, with financial sector stocks the worst performers.

ANZ was down 23 cents at $23.43, Westpac fell 18.5 cents to $24.235 and Commonwealth Bank shed 23.5 cents to $58.045, but National Australia Bank was up three cents at $23.23.

National turnover was 639.8 million shares worth $1.07 billion, with 405 shares up, 355 down and 316 unchanged.

The West Australian

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