Aust stocks close flat, end year 15% stronger

Local bourse moves sideways in subdued final trading day of year but posts solid gains for 2013 overall.

By a staff reporter, with AAP

Australian shares had a flat finish to 2013, but the market rose by 15 per cent over the past 12 months, its best performance in four years.

At the official close of 1410 AEDT the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.09 per cent to 5,352.2 points while the broader All Ordinaries index was also 0.09 per cent lower at 5,353.1 points.

IG market analyst Evan Lucas said trading volumes on the shortened last day of the year were very light as investors stayed out of the market.

"It's pretty flat out there," Mr Lucas said.

"Everyone's pretty much done what they needed to do.

"It's the best year since 2009 and the second best year since the global financial crisis."

Financial stocks, particularly the big four banks, added the most points to the index, but retail and service stocks made the greatest percentage gains.

Law Firm Slater and Gordon was the biggest mover, more than doubling in value, to $4.84.

It was closely followed by real estate website REA Group Ltd, retailers Kathmandu Holdings Ltd and JB Hi-Fi Ltd, and Magellan Financial Group Ltd, which also doubled their share prices.

The biggest losers were mining and mining services companies, with gold miner Silver Lake Resources Ltd losing more than 80 per cent and mining services company Forge Group Ltd down 67 per cent, despite recent gains.

Ausdrill Ltd, Resolute Mining Ltd and Newcrest Mining Ltd all lost more than 64 per cent over the year.

Financials were mixed at the day's close.

ANZ edged up 0.06 per cent to $32.23 and Commonwealth Bank lifted 0.17 per cent to $77.80.

National Australia Bank let go of 0.03 per cent to $34.83, while Westpac rose 0.19 per cent to $32.38.

Investment bank Macquarie Group declined 0.36 per cent to $2.75.

In insurance, IAG was flat at $5.82 and Suncorp fell 0.38 per cent to $13.10, while QBE lost 1.03 per cent $11.51.

The materials sector was mostly lower.

BHP Billiton edged down 0.08 per cent to $37.99, while rival Rio Tinto gained 0.26 per cent to $68.18.

Fortescue Metals fell 0.51 per cent to $5.82 and Newcrest dropped 1.89 per cent to $7.80.

Whitehaven Coal declined 0.78 per cent to $1.91 while Santos slipped 0.14 per cent to $14.63.

Oil Search lost 1.1 per cent to $8.11 and Woodside Petroleum gave up 0.69 per cent to $38.90.

The retail sector was mixed.

Wesfarmers inched down 0.02 per cent to $44.04 while rival Woolworths was flat at $33.85.

Myer lost 0.72 per cent to $2.75 and rival David Jones advanced 0.33 per cent to $3.02.

Harvey Norman declined 0.63 per cent to $3.16, while JB Hi-Fi grew 0.84 per cent to $21.50.

In media, Fairfax Media was flat at 64 cents, 21st Century Fox slipped 0.26 per cent to $38.54 and News Corp retreated 0.3 per cent to $19.90.

Ten Network was flat at 28 cents, while Seven West lost 1.26 per cent to $2.35 and Southern Cross Media gave up 0.3 per cent to $1.69.

Telstra fell 0.19 per cent to $5.25, while Qantas was flat at $1.095.

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