Chinese trade data lifted the Australian sharemarket out of the red, but sentiment was muted after lending in the world's second biggest economy fell well short of forecasts.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped into the red in early trade following an unconvincing session on Wall Street last night, rallied to a 0.4 per cent gain on the Chinese data but slipped back to close 14.9 points, or 0.32 per cent, up at 4723 points.
Chinese exports climbed 14 per cent in December, outstripping forecasts for 5 per cent, but of more importance to Australia and other exporting countries, imports lagged with a 6 per cent increase that beat forecasts for a 3.5 per cent increase.
However, pointing to growth headwinds from a slowdown of money circulating through the economy. New loans tumbled 13 per cent to 454 billion yuan ($ 83 billion) in December, well short of forecasts for an increase to 550 billion. M2 money supply growth dipped to 13.8 per cent, missing forecasts for 14 per cent.
Capping bullishness, the Australian dollar jumped 0.5Â¢ to $US1.0550 on the news.
"The data isn't a game changer however, as monthly trade data out of Beijing can be volatile and fears of a hard landing in China have largely dissipated, but continued strong trade data out of the world's second largest economy bodes well for the Aussie and Australia's export market," Forex.com analyst Chris Tedder said.
The Shanghai composite index was up 0.5 per cent at the close of the ASX, with the weak lending data supporting speculation the central bank could cut bank lending reserve requirement ratios. Japan's Nikkei index was up 0.9 per cent.
Last night the S&P 500 index rose 0.2 per cent as the earnings season failed to ignite sentiment and disappointing German industrial production fanned global growth fears with a tepid 0.2 per cent bounce in November following a 2 per cent drop in October.
Copper rose 0.2 per cent to $US8096 a tonne, gold eased $US5 to $US1656 an ounce, while spot iron ore was unchanged at $US158.50 a tonne.
More to come