Aust stocks close flat

Local market little changed as investors wait for certainty on US stimulus.

The Australian stock market closed little changed today after weak Wall Street leads as global bourses wait for further clarity on the United States Federal Reserve's plans to taper its stimulus program.

At 1615 AEST official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index edged down 0.03% to 5,112.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index inched up 0.04% to 5,102.3 points.

CMC Markets analyst Tim Waterer said investors around the world are waiting for more information about a reduction in quantitative easing.

"It was a fairly mediocre performance by Australian equities, with the weak United States lead and ex-dividend trading on some of the heavyweight stocks," Mr Waterer said.

"Investors also seemed reluctant to extend positions further in light of both the US Federal Reserve minutes as well as further earnings reports locally."

IG analyst Chris Weston said volumes were solid today.

"The market could be front running the idea that life with a majority government is becoming more of a reality by the day which could be helping," Mr Weston said.

Financials were mixed.

Commonwealth Bank fell 2.93% to $71.15, while ANZ Banking Group lost 0.03% to $29.44.

National Australia Bank lifted 0.29% to $31.36 and Westpac Banking Corporation added 0.99% to $31.57.

Investment bank Macquarie Group fell 0.54% to $44.18.

In the insurance sector, QBE rose 0.77% to $17.03, Insurance Australia Group added 1.03% to $5.87 and Suncorp lifted 1.05% to $12.47.

Funds manager Challenger rose 7.34% to $4.68 after delivering a rise in full-year profit and flagging a strong 2014.

Materials were mostly higher.

BHP Billiton rose 0.46% to $37.04, while Rio Tinto added 0.1% to $60.14.

Fortescue Metals lifted 0.5% to $4.05.

Whitehaven Coal was flat at $2.02 and Newcrest put on 0.64% to $12.65.

BlueScope Steel slumped 14.08% to $4.70 after warning it will not deliver a better performance than in the second half of this year, in the current half.

In the energy sector, Santos lifted 1.44% to $14.75, Oil Search gained 0.12% to $8.25 and Woodside rose 1.07% to $38.70.

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