Australia shares flat despite highest weekly rise in four weeks

SYDNEY Fri Nov 23, 2012 6:02am GMT

SYDNEY Nov 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares pared early losses to end flat on Friday, holding above 4,400 points, with the market lacking momentum after Wall St was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped one point to 4,413. The benchmark rose 1.8 percent for the week, its highest weekly rise in four weeks.

"Stocks seemed content to just saunter into the weekend, with traders knowing that more volatility could be just around the corner," said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.

"The ASX200 unable to build upon the 1 percent gain from Thursday with no new developments abroad."

Australian miners could be hit further by China's plan to cut taxes for its domestic iron ore miners to compete with overseas rivals.

Bellwether miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd both rose 0.2 percent.

Lynas Corp jumped 6.7 percent, extending its rally after it said on Thursday it would start operation at its $800 million Malaysian plant with the arrival of the first shipment of rare-earth concentrates.

Steel and gold stocks were weak, with Fortescue Metals Group dropping 3.2 percent and Evolution losing 5 percent.

Banks were mixed, with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp gaining 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent. National Australia Bank was trading flat while Australia New Zealand Banking Corp fell 0.6 percent.

"The U.S. markets were closed yesterday, you've got some key meetings in Europe over the weekend, it's a nothing day to be honest. The market is neither here nor there," said Cameron Peacock, market analyst at IG Markets.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.3 percent, or 11.1 points, to 4,008.3. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Paul Tait)