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Investors cautious before debt meeting

THE sharemarket finished marginally higher as investors awaited the outcome of a meeting between European finance ministers to determine the next move on Greece's debt.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 11.2 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4424.2, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 12 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4443.5.

Among the sectors, industrials rose 1.3 per cent, goldminers were up 1.1 per cent, materials added 0.7 per cent, while consumer staples and consumer discretionary both inched up 0.5 per cent. Telecoms bucked the trend, falling 1.1 per cent.

''It was quite a positive week last week and that just seems to have flowed over, with risk assets like stocks, commodities and currencies performing pretty well, so I guess just a shift from the defensive assets into the growth assets,'' said Darryl Conroy, markets analyst at Suncorp.

Investors were generally cautious as eurozone finance ministers are set to meet for the third time in two weeks to discuss Greece's aid program.

Greece, after a €130 billion ($A160 billion) bailout was approved earlier this year, is waiting on several loan instalments to help ease its crippling debt, but so far European leaders have failed to come to an agreement on the details of the plan.


''It's an absolute merry-go-around [in Europe], it just seems to come up every couple of months. Once again, don't expect any real, long-lasting solutions. Hopefully markets are just hanging out for what they want to hear,'' said Mr Conroy.

BHP was the biggest contributor to the market, jumping 0.8 per cent to $34.01, and was responsible for a push of 4.18 points on the ASX 200.

Rio Tinto traded relatively flat at $57.21, while iron ore miner Fortescue added 3.3 per cent to $3.80.

The big banks were mixed, with ANZ slipping 0.1 per cent to $23.57 and Westpac down 0.7 per cent to $24.76, while NAB added 0.3 per cent to $23.70 and CBA rose 0.3 per cent to $59.15.

Media stocks enjoyed a nice run, featuring heavily among the top gainers for the day.

Fairfax Media jumped 4.7 per cent to 45¢, Seven West Media rose 4.5 per cent to $1.64 and APN News & Media added 7.1 per cent to 30¢. News Corporation and Ten Network bucked the trend, trading flat.

Domain provider Melbourne IT hit a nine-month low after the company announced its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) would be 10 per cent lower in 2012 compared with 2011. Shares dropped 10.9 per cent to $1.55.

The dollar traded within a tight range, holding at about US104.5¢.