Aust stocks flat at close

By a staff reporter

The Australian stock market tracked sideways on low volumes throughout the session to close just short of the key 5200 psychological threshold, with investors holding their positions after yesteday's rally and a strong local jobs print weighing on sentiment. 

At the 1615 AEST official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index edged 0.03 per cent lower to 5,198.4 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index edged up 0.2 per cent to 5,188.5 points.

IG market analyst Chris Weston said the fall in Australian jobless figures perversely put the market under pressure.

"The yield plays took the hit as expectations came out of the market of future cuts, and while a spike in AUD/USD or slightly hotter-than-expected China CPI print (2.4 per cent) are rarely positive, resource plays have held relatively firm," he said. 

Resources retreated from yesterday's rally but finished slightly higher. 

BHP Billiton increased 0.7 per cent to $34.54.

Rio Tinto lost 1.19 per cent to $58.20 after chief executive Sam Walsh reiterated his committment to a "relentless" cost-cutting drive at the group's annual general meeting. 

Fortescue Metals gained 0.77 per cent to $3.92.

Whitehaven Coal rose 3.45 per cent to $2.10.

In crude stocks, Woodside declined 0.14 per cent to $36.97.

Oil Search was flat at $7.86.

Santos added 1.42 per cent to $12.83,  after chief executive David Knox told shareholders that its liquefied natural gas portfolio was on track

Newcrest Mining put on 2.44 per cent to $17.61.

The financial dragged the market, with three of the big four banks in the red.

ANZ Banking Group slipped 2.77 per cent to $30.59, while Commonwealth Bank fell 0.27 per cent to $71.04.

National Australia Bank decreased 2.07 per cent to $32.68, after posting a rise in interim cash earnings on strong personal banking performance. 

Westpac Banking Corporation bucked the trend, inclining 1.21 per cent to $33.35.

Investment bank Macquarie Group added 0.71 per cent to $45.40.

In the insurance sector, QBE increased 0.64 per cent to $14.08.

Insurance Australia Group gave up 0.5 per cent to $5.94, while Suncorp declined 0.88 per cent to $12.45.  

Retail stocks were mostly lower. 

Wesfarmers slipped 0.17 per cent to $41.91 while Woolworths added 0.17 per cent to $34.61.

Myer declined 1.02 to $2.91 while David Jones was flat at $2.90.

Harvey Norman was unchanged at $2.88, and JB Hi-Fi fell 1.44 per cent to $17.16. 

The media sector was higher. 

Fairfax Media added 2.36 per cent to 65 cents, while rival News Corp grew 2.85 per cent to $32.47.

Ten Network increased 4.92 per cent to 32 cents.

Southern Cross Media inclined 2.3 per cent to $1.555, while Seven West rose 3.04 per cent to $2.37.

Blue chip Qantas expanded 0.55 per cent to $1.815 and Telstra shed 0.79 per cent to $5.03.

In economic news, China's inflation accelerated to 2.4 per cent in April from 2.1 per cent in March, official data showed.

In Australia, the market closed the previous at its best level in almost five years, driven by record US market highs and positive Chinese trade data.

Resources stocks led the Australian market to near the 5200-points level, the highest close since August 2008.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 56.1 points, or 1.09 per cent, at 5,199.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was up 55.2 points, or 1.08 per cent, to 5,177.9 points.