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Shares steady as Qantas soars, banks fall

Christian Edwards
AAP

The share market has closed flat as banks continued their recent declines, Qantas hit new highs and the the major iron ore companies managed minor gains.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 dropped 0.3 points to 5,651.8 points.

Commsec analyst Steven Daghlian said there were no strong local leads, and a the major banks experienced a third consecutive day of falls.

"No single sector stood out on a day of modest movement, the market is sorely awaiting a catalyst," he said.

The Australian dollar fell after an unexpected fall in retail trade in August of 0.6 per cent, the steepest monthly decline since March 2013.

The local currency was as high as 78.66 US cents before the data was released, and was at 78.27 US cents at 1700 AEDT.

Retail stocks also fell, with JB Hi-Fi down 0.7 per cent at $22.81, Harvey Norman dropped 0.5 per cent to $3.82 and Just Jeans and Portmans owner Premier investments was 1.2 per cent weaker at $12.74.

Among the banks, ANZ was the weakest performer, dropping 0.5 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank recovered as the session went on to close just 0.1 per cent lower.

Qantas gained 3.2 per cent to a record close of $6.12 after Goldman Sachs upgraded its rating on the stock.

Rio Tinto added 0.8 per cent to $67.99, BHP Billiton gained 0.4 cent to $26.09 and Fortescue Metals was steady at $5.15.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 0.3 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 5,651.8 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 0.7 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 5,720.3 points.

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 6 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 5,634 points.

* National turnover was 3 billion securities traded worth $4.5 billion

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 78.27 US cents, from 78.67 US cents on Wednesday

* 88.26 Japanese yen, from 88.55 yen

* 66.60 euro cents, from 66.83 euro cents

* 59.14 British pence, from 59.26 pence

* 109.41 NZ cents, from 109.47 NZ cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,274.24 per fine ounce, from $US1,276.34 per fine ounce on Wednesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.9792pct, from 2.0182pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.7319pct, from 2.7562pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* December 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.19 (implying a yield of 2.81pct), from 97.165 (2.835pct) on Wednesday

* December 2017 3-year bond futures contract at 97.88 (2.12pct), from 97.84 (216pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)