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The sharemarket ended four straight days of gains, finishing just below Wednesday’s 17-month high close, as investors failed to find direction amid mixed leads from overseas.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index slipped 1 point to 4582.2, while the broader All Ords gained 1 point to 4592.9.

The sectors were mixed, with materials extending their recent rally, rising 0.4 per cent, energy adding 0.2 per cent, but financials slipping 0.1 per cent and consumer staples down 1.1 per cent.

Despite the lack of direction, there were positives to be found across the market, said RBS Morgans senior trader Luke McEllwaine.

‘‘Even though the market hasn’t moved much at a macro level, [it] is starting to show some signs of some significant moves within it, with things that have underperformed for a little while, like the materials sector, starting to show signs [of recovery],’’ he said.

The major miners both closed at near seven-month highs, with BHP up 0.7 per cent at $36 and rival Rio Tinto 0.9 per cent higher at $62.75.

Iron ore miner Fortescue failed to come to the party, dropping 0.7 per cent to $4.25.

The materials sector is still trading down around 1.2 per cent for 2012 while the broader market is trading about 13 per cent higher for the year.

The Australian dollar pushed to new three-month highs on Thursday, hitting $US1.0586 before slipping down to $1.0553 in late trading, on the back of an increased monetary stimulus plan for the US economy.

The dollar also pushed to it’s highest point against the yen since April 2011, fetching 88.26 yen in late trading.

The high dollar put increased pressure on consumer staples stocks, as Wesfarmers fell 1.2 per cent to $35.85, Woolworths dropped 1 per cent to $29.53, Coca-Cola Amatil slipped 1.7 per cent to $13.33 and Treasury Wines lost 2.4 per cent to $4.90.

Media stocks enjoyed a strong rally, led by Fairfax Media, publisher of this The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald – which was the biggest winner for the day – up 11.3 per cent to 54 cents.

‘‘Fairfax has been a underperformer for quite a period of time,’’ said Mr McEllwaine.  

The combination of traders covering an oversold position and potential value of Fairfax was helping the rally, said Mr McEllwaine.

Elsewhere in the media, APN surged 10.5 per cent to 31.5 cents, Seven West Media jumped 3.1 per cent to $1.64, while Network Ten traded flat at 26 cents and News Corp slipped 0.9 per cent to $24.18.

Virgin shares failed to gain any traction after the company announced a doubling of its marketing partnership with Tourism Australia, after rival Qantas last month severed its ties with the official tourism agency.

Virgin shares fell 2.3 per cent to 42.5 cents, while Qantas jumped 1.1 per cent to $1.41.

Results among the banks were mixed, Westpac added 0.3 per cent to $25.98 and CBA rose 0.1 per cent to $61.28, while ANZ dropped 0.1 per cent to $24.68 and NAB fell 0.2 per cent to $24.60.