Stocks get a breather from recent hammering

THE sharemarket closed flat as uncertainty about US and European debt issues weighed on investors.

THE sharemarket closed flat as uncertainty about US and European debt issues weighed on investors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 3.9 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 4468.1, while the broader All Ordinaries index was 0.5 points, or 0.01 per cent, weaker at 4539.4.

An Austock Securities senior client adviser, Michael Heffernan, said it was a mixed day on the market. The energy sector closed higher and News Corp shares made their first gains in several days.

"It's been a bit of a relief today. We've been belted for the last few days," Mr Heffernan said. Uncertainty on overseas markets because of sovereign debt concerns also weighed on the local bourse, he said.

News Corp rose 34?, or 2.4 per cent, to $14.50, and its non-voting stock rose 32?, or 2.3 per cent, to $14.08. It was reported that a News Corp board member, Thomas Perkins, said the chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, had the full support of the board, and dismissed reports that Mr Murdoch would be replaced because of the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum reported a rise in June quarter revenue due to stronger commodity prices. Shares in the company rose 67?, or 1.75 per cent, to $38.92.

Santos, which on Monday launched a near $1 billion all-scrip bid for gas explorer Eastern Star Gas, rose 37?, or 2.9 per cent, to $13.11.

Eastern Star Gas was up 3.5? at 87.5?, and Oil Search rose 4? to $6.73.

OZ Minerals gained 36?, or 2.8 per cent, to $13.32 after reporting it maintained its full-year copper and gold production targets, and would conduct a $200 million on-market share buyback.

Mining heavyweight BHP Billiton fell 23? to $42.62 and Rio Tinto dropped 27? to $81.33.

Gambling company Tabcorp was the best performer in the top 100 stocks after it paid $410 million for the rights to operate off-course betting in Victoria for the next 12 years. Tabcorp rose 16?, or 5.16 per cent, to $3.26, while fellow gambling company Tatts Group, which missed out on the licence, rose 1? to $2.33.

Property trust stocks were among the worst performers, with Dexus Property Group down 2? at 83?, GPT Group down 5? at $3 and Westfield Group down 17? at $8.20.

Preliminary national turnover was 2.12 billion shares worth $4.53 billion, with 476 stocks up, 538 down and 383 unchanged.

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