Market still in the red mid-session

Australian shares were slightly lower mid-session as investors followed a negative lead from Wall Street and locked in profits on the final trading day of the year.

The Australian stock market will close at 11am today.

At 9am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 13.4 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 4657.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 16.9 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 4668.3 points.

On the ASX 24, the March 2013 share price index futures contract was down 11 points at 4635 points, with 6842 contracts traded.

The prospect of no deal being reached between US president Barack Obama and legislators in the US Congress over a looming budget deadline caused investors to offload stocks during Friday night's US session.

CommSec economist Craig James said local investors now appeared to be more optimistic about the US situation as they locked in profits amid thin volumes.

"After the good year that we've had this year you'd expect a degree of profit taking at the end of the year and indeed that's happening," Mr James said.

Mr James said most people had a degree of optimism that an agreement would be reached in the US.

"Otherwise you'd see the markets down a whole lot more than what we're seeing at the moment."

Wall Street closed lower - the Dow slipped 1.21 per cent, the S&P500 eased 1.1 per cent and the NASDAQ tumbled 0.86 per cent.

In local news, Fairfax Media was up 6.3 per cent at 50.5 cents after it emerged advertising man John Singleton and investment banker Mark Carnegie had bought into the struggling publisher.

Sundance Resources shares were 15.6 per cent higher at 37 cents following reports that a privately owned Chinese company is finalising the acquisition of the Australian miner.

Two of the best performing stocks over the year, DrillSearch and Breville, suffered some of the heaviest losses.

Drillsearch shares were 3.5 cents lower at $1.52, while Breville shares were 27 cents lower at $6.72.

National turnover was 324 million securities worth $406 million, with 293 stocks trading up, 374 down and 313 unchanged.

The West Australian

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