Australian shares flat on mixed local jobs data, China trade

Reuters - UK Focus

* Mining and retail REITs underpin market (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 10 (Reuters) - Australian shareswere flat on Thursday, with an overnight rise on Wall Street andhigher metal prices providing support but mixed local jobs dataand mildly disappointing Chinese trade figures preventing anymove higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index had slipped 0.3 point to5,452.2 by 0205 GMT with 98 shares higher, 87 falling and 14unchanged.

Australian employment rose a solid 15,900 in June to justbeat forecasts but that did not prevent the unemployment ratefrom hitting a four-month high of 6 percent as more people wentlooking for work.

China's imports remained weak in June, highlighting sluggishdomestic demand, although recent data has pointed to signs ofstabilisation. China is Australia's largestexport market.

"There's probably a bit of disappointment this morning interms of market performance. We were looking to recoup some ofyesterday's losses but that just hasn't materialised at thisstage," said Ben Le Brun, a market analyst at OptionsXpress.

In the resources sector, big-name miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) added 0.5 percent and 0.7percent respectively. Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped 3.5 percent to a four-month high of A$11.23.

Copper prices hovered near their highest in almost fivemonths while gold rose to hold above $1,320 an ounce.

REITs were also propped up on the back of Westfield (Other OTC: WEFIF - news) shoppingcentre's Scentre Group raising more than A$3 billion ina European debt deal. Scentre climbed 2.2 percent to an all-timehigh of A$3.28, while Westfield Corp added 1.1 percent.

A handful of top stocks trailed lower with consumer retailstaple Woolworths Ltd down 0.2 percent and top lenderCommonwealth Bank of Australia (Other OTC: CBAUF - news) slipping 0.3 percent.

Trading in Syrah Resources Ltd was halted after the shares shot more than 20 percent higher on speculation it was atakeover target.

Gas pipe owner Envestra soared 5.7 percent to aone-month high of A$0.83 after it said it was reconsidering itssupport for CKI's $2.2 billion bid for it.

Finbar Group Ltd gained 2.5 percent as it forecasta record A$36 million record for fiscal year 2014.

New Zealand shares rose from a two-week low and posted theirfirst increase in three sessions as companies knocked lower inrecent days clawed back some of their losses.

The benchmark NZX-50 index was up 16.8 points or 0.3percent at 5,139.59, with gainers outnumbering fallers by two toone.

The biggest company, Fletcher Building Ltd (NZSE: FBU.NZ - news) , was up0.3 percent at NZ$8.89, while software company Xero Ltd was 2.8 percent higher at NZ$25.70.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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