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Stocks finish the quarter on a flat note

THE sharemarket closed flat after a day of trading within a narrow range before long weekends in New South Wales and parts of Asia.

THE sharemarket closed flat after a day of trading within a narrow range before long weekends in New South Wales and parts of Asia.

The market opened up 0.1 per cent after the US market's less-than-expected response to Germany's approval to beef up Europe's rescue fund to stave off a second global recession.

Shares drifted in afternoon trade and by the close the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was up 0.3 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 4008.6.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee called it a "lacklustre session", with investors treading water in the absence of any new data ahead of a public holiday in NSW, China and South Korea on Monday.

She said trading volumes were extremely weak after the expiration of single-stock derivatives on Thursday.

Turnover was 2.08 billion shares valued at $7.83 billion. The number of stocks that gained was about the same as those that fell.

"And that's surprising because it's not only the end of the week, it's also the end of the month and the quarter," she said.

Telecom stocks, which Ms Lee said were the strongest of the last quarter, closed 0.39 per cent higher, with Telstra up 1? at $3.10.

Materials, the worst performers in the same period, ended 0.04 per cent down, with mining giant Rio Tinto falling 1.04 per cent, or 65?, to $61.80. Fellow miner BHP Billiton fell 2? to $35.02.

Energy stocks led the market, rising 1.2 per cent after world oil prices picked up on Thursday on the back of renewed sentiment after the German vote.

Woodside Petroleum rose 34?, or 1.1 per cent, to $32.48 and Santos added 10? to $11.37.

Building materials company Boral gained most among the top 100 companies on the ASX, up 4.8 per cent, or 16?, at $3.50.

Qantas lost 1? to $1.41 after baggage handlers and ground staff voted to keep fighting for better pay, with a one-hour strike possibly being increased to 24 hours.

Fortescue Metals shares shed 3? to $4.42 despite having its highest level of quarterly shipments in the three months since June.


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