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Aust shares close flat despite oil boost

The Australian share market has closed flat on Thursday, despite gains for local energy and gold stocks and a positive overnight lead from Wall Street.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 3.1 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 6,244.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 4.1 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 6,337.6 points.

Australian Stock Report's head of research Chris Conway said investors were waiting for the local earnings reporting season, which kicks off next week.

"Everyone's really keeping their powder dry ahead of reporting season and that's also reflected in the fact that the market itself has been stuck in a range between 6,200 and 6,300 (points) for the last month," Mr Conway said.

Financial stocks slipped, weighed down by Macquarie Group slumping as much as 4.7 per cent during the session before closing at $121.70, down 2.6 per cent.

Shemara Wikramanayake was announced as the successor to Macquarie CEO Nicholas Moore.

Ms Wikramanayake is "supremely talented", Mr Conway said, but change in leadership will often make investors cautious.

"She's as good a succession plan as you could possibly hope for, but ultimately shareholders don't like change," he said.

In other company news, the listed media sector got a shake up with news Nine Entertainment will acquire Fairfax Media in a $2.2 billion cash-and-shares deal.

Nine ended Thursday down 26 cents, or 10.3 per cent at $2.26 while Fairfax shares jumped 6.5 cents, or 8.4 per cent, to 83.5 cents.

National Australia Bank closed flat at $28.13 as it announced it would be refunding about $67 million to superannuation customers.

Westpac dropped 0.4 per cent to $29.15, Commonwealth Bank rose 0.1 per cent to $74.83, and ANZ slipped 0.4 per cent to $29.01.

Australia's largest listed gold miner, Newcrest Mining, reported a 15 per cent bounce in fourth-quarter gold output, meeting annual targets despite gold prices losing nearly six per cent so far this year.

Gold stocks all gained ground with Newcrest up 4.6 per cent to $20.92, Northern Star adding 4.3 per cent to $7.36 and Evolution Mining up 2.4 per cent to $3.04.

Oil stocks gained, helped by Brent crude oil prices rising to over $US74.64 a barrel.

The US dollar gained as trade war worries eased.

The Australian dollar was trading at 74.28 US cents at 1700 AEST on Thursday, up from 74.05 US cents on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 3.1 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 6,244.5 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries fell 4.1 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,337.6 points.

* The SPI200 futures contract was up six points, or 0.01 per cent, at 6,197 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 74.28 US cents, from 74.05 US cents on Tuesday

* 82.21 Japanese yen, from 82.31

* 63.37 euro cents, from 63.31

* 56.31 British pence, from 56.22

* 108.73 NZ cents, from 108.79

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,229.67 per fine ounce, up from $US1,227.53 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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