Australia shares flat, set to end year up 15 pct

Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:08pm EST

SYDNEY, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Australian stocks meandered in
holiday-thinned trade on Tuesday morning, with the market
remaining on track to end 2013 up more than 15 percent and post
its biggest annual gain in four years.
    "We are going into the end of the calendar year today and
personally I think the market will be pushed up. I think the
market will close well today," said Shawn Hickman, managing
director at Market Matters. 
    The S&P/ASX 200 index drifted around its previous
close, with investors more focused on New Year celebrations. At
0100 GMT the index was up 5.8 points, or 0.1 percent, at 5362.6.
That is less than 100 points below a 5-1/2 year high of 5,457.3
hit on Oct. 28.
    The market will close at 2:10 p.m. (0310 GMT) for New Year's
Eve, two hours earlier than normal.
    The big four banks, heavyweights in the index, were mostly
positive. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia,
added 0.2 percent and Westpac Banking Corp gained 0.4
percent. National Australia Bank slipped 0.1 percent.
    With their bumper earnings and generous dividends, the big
bank have been the major driving force for the market in 2013,
IG market strategist Evan Lucas said in a note to clients. 
    BHP Billiton dipped 0.1 percent and Rio Tinto
 fell 0.3 percent. Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd
 fell 1.2 percent, set to lose 65 percent for 2013. 
    "Looking at the ASX 200 more broadly, the top five winners
came from retail and service providers, while every loser except
one in the top ten is involved in mining," Lucas said. 
    Department stores Myer Holdings Ltd and David Jones
Ltd rose 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent respectively,
supported by Christmas and holiday sales.
    Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi Ltd rose 0.6 percent.
The company has gained 107 percent in 2013, making it one of the
biggest gainers on the index.
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.7
percent to 4,737.0. The index has gained 16.5 percent this year.

 (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by John Mair)
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