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Weak jobs data wipes out early gains

THE sharemarket closed flat yesterday after disappointing employment data prompted a sell-off ahead of economic news from China and the US.

THE sharemarket closed flat yesterday after disappointing employment data prompted a sell-off ahead of economic news from China and the US.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index added 4.6 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 4188, while the broader All Ordinaries index rose 6.9 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 4269.8.

The market opened 0.7 per cent higher as investors took their cues from a positive finish on Wall Street and a cautiously positive assessment on the US economy from the Federal Reserve.

The local bourse held on to those gains through the morning but investors sold out of stocks when the latest labour force report showed the unemployment rate rose to a 10-month high of 5.3 per cent in August.

The Bureau of Statistics said the economy lost 9700 jobs during the month. "People thought the jobless rate would stay stable at 5.1 per cent," RBS Morgans private client adviser Craig Walker said.

"So that news was probably a little disappointing."

CMC Markets strategist Michael McCarthy said low trading volumes demonstrated a lack of conviction in the market after a combination of positive GDP figures released on Wednesday and yesterday's weak unemployment data.

Energy stocks gained ground after oil prices rose during offshore trading. The sector was up 0.81 per cent, led by Oil Search, which rose 12? to $6.14. Fellow oil and gas producer Santos advanced 6? to $11.56.

The strongest stock in the top 50 was Leighton, which ended the day up 53? at $19.13.

The industrial sector made modest gains, as did typically defensive sectors utilities and health care. Financials lost some ground.

BHP Billiton eased 6? to $38.17 and rival Rio Tinto was up 70? at $71.30. Atlas Iron was down 4? at $3.70 after it declared as unconditional its all-scrip $240 million takeover offer for fellow iron ore miner FerrAus. FerrAus slipped 1? to 92?.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1841.79 per ounce, down $US3.04.

Preliminary national turnover was 2.36 billion securities changing hands for $5.04 billion.


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