Market drifts ahead of US holiday

The sharemarket pared early gains to close flat on Thursday, as investors stuck to the sidelines before the US Thanksgiving holiday, with the US markets closed overnight.

The sharemarket pared early gains to close flat on Thursday, as investors stuck to the sidelines before the US Thanksgiving holiday, with the US markets closed overnight.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 1.4 points to 5334.3, while the broader All Ordinaries Index added 1.7 points to 5326.6.

Shares got a temporary boost from domestic data that showed greater than expected private sector investment in the September quarter, a sign low interest rates are working to stimulate the economy.

ANZ economist Dylan Eades said the capex data did not change the outlook for monetary policy. "The Reserve Bank is still likely to keep interest rates on hold for an extended period."

Three of the big four banks closed higher. Westpac added 23¢ to $33, Commonwealth Bank rose 72¢ to $78.02, while National Australia Bank gained 5¢ to $34.54. ANZ bucked the trend, dipping 4¢ to $32.04.

Healthcare was the best-performing sector, up 0.9 per cent, as CSL added 48¢ to $69.04, while Ansell gained 3.8 per cent to $20.55.

Online jobs advertiser Seek jumped 5.9 per cent to $13.13, after telling the market of its intentions to float subsidiary IDP Education in 2014.

Specialty Fashion Group climbed 5.1 per cent to 83¢ after acquiring clothing and footwear retailer Rivers Australia for $5 million - a discount to book value - funded from cash reserves.

Qantas jumped 3.8 per cent to $1.23 after federal Treasurer Joe Hockey flagged lifting the foreign ownership limit on the troubled national carrier. Rival Virgin Australia was unchanged at 39¢.

The metals and mining sector was flat as the dollar rose to US91.33¢ at the local close, while the spot price of iron ore, landed in China, edged higher to $US136 a tonne.

BHP Billiton dipped 6¢ to $37.19, while Rio Tinto rose 12¢ to $64.42.

Salary packaging services company McMillan Shakespeare was the best-performing stock, up 9.3 per cent to $13.20, after telling shareholders it was "back on a business as usual footing" and showing average daily novated leasing orders had recovered.

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