(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Jan 31 Australian shares were mostly
flat on Friday in choppy trade and were due to post a loss this
month, the first losing January in four years, as weak metal
prices undercut an uptick in private sector credit.
Resource stocks pulled the market lower after copper and
iron ore prices fell as the Chinese New Year holiday hampered
demand for commodities.
BHP Billiton Ltd fell 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd
lost 0.3 percent each.
Coal shipping ports in northeastern Australia remained
closed on Friday after a powerful slammed into the coast in the
early hours, packing heavy winds and generating giant tides,
port officials said.
PanAust Ltd dipped 0.9 percent while NuCoal
Resources Ltd tumbled 12 percent as the miner faces
legal challenges regarding its licence at Doyle Creek.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 3.1 points to 5,185.0
by 0100 GMT and is set to lose 1.1 percent for the week, its
fourth consecutive week of losses. The benchmark fell 0.8
percent on Thursday.
Elsewhere the benchmark recovered from session lows
following news private sector credit had increased by 0.5
percent in December.
"I think that's certainly helping, you've seen all the banks
recover as well and that's certainly a key reflection of that,"
said John Milroy, division director at Macquarie Private Wealth.
"It points to the fact that the consumer might be spending a
Shares in Australian retailer David Jones Ltd
jumped 4.5 percent after saying it had rejected a takeover
approach from Myer Holdings Ltd worth A$1.4 billion in
October 2013 and was no longer in talks.
Elsewhere, the financial sector recovered with two of the Big
Four banks posting gains. Commonwealth Bank of Australia
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both
eked out a 0.1 percent gain.
Overnight, the S&P 500 scored its biggest gain in more than
a month on Thursday as Facebook led a tech rally and data showed
the U.S. economy was on solid footing in the fourth quarter of
last year, helping to offset broader losses in the local market.
Australian manufacturer Nufarm Ltd lost 1.5 percent
to 9-month lows of A$3.94 after the company said it had agreed
with a unit of Sumitomo Chemical Co to distribute Valent branded
products in the United States from February 16.
Australia's sharemarket has shed 3.1 percent in January, a
patchy start to the year as investors sold out of equities on
slowing growth in China and the U.S. Federal Reserve continuing
to taper its bond-buying program.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.8
percent or 38.6 points to 4,888.4.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)