July 10, 2014 / 2:36 AM / 3 years ago

Australian shares flat on mixed local jobs data, China trade

3 Min Read

* Mining and retail REITs underpin market (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares were flat on Thursday, with an overnight rise on Wall Street and higher metal prices providing support but mixed local jobs data and mildly disappointing Chinese trade figures preventing any move higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index had slipped 0.3 point to 5,452.2 by 0205 GMT with 98 shares higher, 87 falling and 14 unchanged.

Australian employment rose a solid 15,900 in June to just beat forecasts but that did not prevent the unemployment rate from hitting a four-month high of 6 percent as more people went looking for work.

China's imports remained weak in June, highlighting sluggish domestic demand, although recent data has pointed to signs of stabilisation. China is Australia's largest export market.

"There's probably a bit of disappointment this morning in terms of market performance. We were looking to recoup some of yesterday's losses but that just hasn't materialised at this stage," said Ben Le Brun, a market analyst at OptionsXpress.

In the resources sector, big-name miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd added 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent respectively. Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped 3.5 percent to a four-month high of A$11.23.

Copper prices hovered near their highest in almost five months while gold rose to hold above $1,320 an ounce.

REITs were also propped up on the back of Westfield shopping centre's Scentre Group raising more than A$3 billion in a European debt deal. Scentre climbed 2.2 percent to an all-time high of A$3.28, while Westfield Corp added 1.1 percent.

A handful of top stocks trailed lower with consumer retail staple Woolworths Ltd down 0.2 percent and top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipping 0.3 percent.

Trading in Syrah Resources Ltd was halted after the shares shot more than 20 percent higher on speculation it was a takeover target.

Gas pipe owner Envestra soared 5.7 percent to a one-month high of A$0.83 after it said it was reconsidering its support for CKI's $2.2 billion bid for it.

Finbar Group Ltd gained 2.5 percent as it forecast a record A$36 million record for fiscal year 2014.

New Zealand shares rose from a two-week low and posted their first increase in three sessions as companies knocked lower in recent days clawed back some of their losses.

The benchmark NZX-50 index was up 16.8 points or 0.3 percent at 5,139.59, with gainers outnumbering fallers by two to one.

The biggest company, Fletcher Building Ltd, was up 0.3 percent at NZ$8.89, while software company Xero Ltd was 2.8 percent higher at NZ$25.70.

Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Alan Raybould

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