A rally in the final hour of trade wiped out heavy afternoon losses on the Australian share market as the ASX narrowly avoided a third straight session in the red.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 3.2 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 5,736.0 on Thursday, while the All Ordinaries was up 2.9 points at 5,825.2.
The share market looked to have run out of steam after it had sat flat at midday, dumping as much as 0.9 per cent in the afternoon.
But bargain hunters swooped in over the final hour of trade to wipe out the losses and leave the headline indices essentially where they had been at the close on Wednesday.
The Australian dollar was buying 72.74 US cents at 1630 AEDT after a boost from unexpectedly strong unemployment data showing October’s rate remained at a six-year seasonally adjusted low of 5.0 per cent.
On the share market, the heavyweight financial and materials sectors ended the day flat.
The big four banks shed between 0.04 and 0.51 per cent, but the weakness was offset by decent gains by some smaller lenders and the insurers.
CBA was the biggest loser of the big banks with a 35 cent decline to $68.86, although No.2 lender Westpac wasn’t far behind, shedding 11 cents, or 0.43 per cent, to close at $25.34.
The picture was similar in the materials sector, with gains among smaller players offsetting 0.76 and 0.22 per cent declines for mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP.
Consumer staples was the worst performing sector, with Wesfarmers shares falling 1.67 per cent to $45.37, apparently in anticipation of a post-AGM shareholder vote approving the spin-off of supermarket giant Coles.
Woolworths and Coca-Cola Amatil followed their sector mate into the red, but consumer discretionaries closed 0.79 per cent higher despite the gloomy news that longstanding menswear chain Roger David would close after failing to find a buyer.
Some support for consumer spending was suggested by unemployment data showing 32,800 more people were in work in October than in the previous month
It also suggested the Reserve Bank may lift the cash rate slightly sooner than some analysts expect, which helped lift the Aussie dollar from 72.19 on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Graincorp shares reversed early gains to close 1.39 per cent lower after a drought-ravaged 43.7 per cent decline in full-year profit.
And REA Group closed 0.36 per cent higher despite the announcement that CEO Tracey Fellows will soon depart for a role with majority shareholder News Corp.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed 3.2 points, or 0.06 per cent, higher at 5,736.0
* The All Ordinaries closed 2.9 points, or 0.05 per cent, higher at 5,285.2
* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up 6.0 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5,746 points
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 72.74 US cents, from 72.19 US cents, cents on Wednesday
* 82.55 Japanese yen, from 82.25
* 64.18 euro cents, from 63.93
* 55.91 British pence, from 55.58
* 106.97 NZ cents, from 106.49
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1,211.50 per fine ounce, from $US1,202.84 on Wednesday.