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Australia: Shares barely up in 2014

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Australian shares looked set to end 2014 with a scant gain well below the past two years' robust advances, and weak commodity prices could impact how the market performs in 2015.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares looked set to end 2014 with a scant gain well below the past two years' robust advances, and weak commodity prices could impact how the market performs in 2015.

This year's gain was likely to be around 1 per cent, compared with 15 per cent in both 2012 and 2013. "The big drag on the market has been a big fall in commodity prices," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, noting large performance differences between sectors. "Energy and materials, which account for up to one-third of the index, was down 12-13 per cent this year, whereas in property and healthcare, we've seen 20 per cent-plus rises," he said.

The S&P/ASX 200 index drifted around its previous close, with investors focused on New Year celebrations. At 0045 GMT the index was up 3.3 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5419.9.

The market will close at 2:10 p.m. (0310 GMT) for New Year's Eve, two hours earlier than normal.

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Miners took heart from a bounce in iron ore prices with Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto both up almost 2 per cent. The energy sector followed suit with Santos and Woodside up 0.9 per cent, while Origin Energy leapt 1.5 per cent.

The "big four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia , Westpac Banking Corp, ANZ Banking Group and National Australia Bank - all rose modestly.

The property sector index was among the biggest losers, down around 1 percent.

The only major data due out in Asia is the final measure of December Chinese manufacturing activity from HSBC.

REUTERS

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