Stocks flat in weak trade

THE sharemarket closed largely unchanged yesterday after a day of tepid trading as investors geared up for the start of the US earnings season.

THE sharemarket closed largely unchanged yesterday after a day of tepid trading as investors geared up for the start of the US earnings season.

The market pared early gains after data showed Australian retail trade was a seasonally adjusted $20.93 billion in November, largely unchanged from the previous month and below market forecasts of a 0.4 per cent rise.

Consumer discretionary stocks lost ground, followed by sectors such as energy and industrial stocks. City Index chief market analyst Peter Esho said some high street retailers might see "more revisions needed on the downside" in the near term.

But he said well-placed retailers could outperform in the coming earnings season. He picks Centro Retail Australia, Harvey Norman, Myer and Ten Network Holdings as his preferred bets.

Super Retail Group ended the day 2.2 per cent higher at $5.58 after the sports retailer bucked the trend to report a 35 per cent rise in sales in the last 26 weeks of 2011. At the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 3.1 points at 4105.4.

Dealers also remained wary of putting money on the table before the start of the US earnings season.

Aluminium maker Alumina was in focus because of its joint venture with US-based Alcoa. Shares in the miner and refiner fell 1.4 per cent to $1.095.

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