Australia shares gain 0.2 pct, Billabong rises

Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:25pm EST

(Updates with opening levels)

MELBOURNE Dec 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares nudged up 0.2 percent in early trading on Monday, recovering from light losses late last week although trade was extremely thin ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Shares in surfwear company Billabong International rose 1.8 percent after the takeover target said it has allowed the backers of a $556 million buyout offer to examine its books.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 8.8 points to 4,632.4 at 2316 GMT. The benchmark slipped 10.5 points to 4,623.6 on Friday.

The market is on track for a gain of 14 percent for the year, although the benchmark remains 30 percent below its all-time high.

Monday's session will be shortened ahead of the two-day Christmas holiday and many players are already on vacation.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.1 percent to 4,051.1. (Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Paul Tait)

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