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Australian shares close flat

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Published on: Monday, February 08, 2016

SYDNEY, AAP - The Australian share market closed broadly flat as falls across the banking sector were offset by gains in resource companies.

With little direction from China because of the weeklong New Year's holiday, investors are biding their time as the local earnings season is about to ramp up, Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said.

"Today's session was very slow and that's because of the Lunar New Year where we will see China closed for the whole week, and a lot of those markets around Asia closed," Ms Lee said.

"So without the Chinese influence I guess the market is looking forward and part of it's earnings season and part of it's commodities," she added.

Iron ore is up to about around $US45 a tonne, which is helping the materials sector. Gains in the gold price are also supporting the sector, Ms Lee said.

Most major international markets fell on Friday after disappointing US earnings results and the US jobs report quelled prospects of an interest rate rise.

On Monday, among the banks, ANZ shares fell 36 cents to $23.73, National Australia Bank fell 31 cents to $26.15 and Westpac lost nine cents to $30.26.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia - which is set to report interim results and announce its closely watched dividend on Wednesday, fell 22 cents to $76.38.

Insurance firm QBE Insurance dropped 16 cents to $103.1.

JB Hi-Fi shares fell 12 cents to $22.00 after the home and electronic goods retailer warned that trading conditions will remain competitive.

OzForex shares dropped $1.30, or 42 per cent, to $1.79 after the money transfer company abandoned takeover talks with global payments firm Western Union, and cut its annual earnings guidance.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom, with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton finding support among investors, thanks to gains in commodity prices.

Rio Tinto rose 91 cents to $42.53 while BHP Billiton gained 17 cents to $16.37. Oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum rose 16 cents to $27.41.

Asciano shares rose 21 cents to $9.10 as the bidding war for the rail and ports operator intensified following an increased offer from Qube and its partners.

Qube shares closed flat $2.20.

Ansell shares rose $1.10 cents to $16.14 after the condoms and protective gloves maker forecast a stronger performance for the second half of fiscal 2016 after booking a 21 per cent fall in its interim net profit. The company's shares fell sharply last week after its profit warning.

KEY FACTS:

* At 1620 AEDT, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 0.8 points, or 0.02 per cent, at 4,975.4 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 3.5 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 5022.1 points.

* The March share price index futures contract was down nine points at 4,915 points, with 23,876 contracts traded, according to preliminary figures.

* Preliminary national turnover was 2.1 billion securities traded worth $4.9 billion.


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