Aust stocks close little changed

Local market closes flat after downbeat private survey on Chinese manufacturing.

The Australian sharemarket finished little changed today after a private survey showed activity in China's manufacturing sector slowed for the third straight month.

At the 4.15pm (AEDT) official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 5.6 points, or 0.1%, to 5,389.2 points while the broader All Ordinaries index lost 8.1 points, or 0.15%, to 5,394.9 points.

The HSBC China purchasing managers' index printed at 48.0 in March, down from 48.5 in February.

Meanwhile, official data on the Chinese manufacturing showed a slight lift in the sector's rate of expansion, to 50.3 in March, up from 50.2 in February.

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said the increase in the official figure was the smallest month-to-month gain on record but shows China is doing better than most fear.

"China double-speak is making trading very interesting and considering the moves in the iron ore futures which have now recouped all losses from the March rout, it looks to be the central government which will look to increase domestic demand," Mr Lucas said.

"The market [is] still believing infrastructure stimulus is the likely outcome."

Locally, the Reserve Bank of Australia kept interest rates on hold at a record low 2.5%, as widely expected.

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