The Australian share market surrendered most of its early gains to close almost flat as local investors waited to see if European Union leaders meeting in Brussels would act to contain the euro zone's continuing debt problems.
On Thursday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 1.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 4,044.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had risen 1.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 4,085.6 points.
On the ASX 24, the September share price index futures contract was eight points higher at 4,020 points, on volume of 24,952 contracts traded.
City Index chief market analyst Peter Esho said the local bourse was lacking a key driver, which had been the case for some time.
"The outcome of the European summit will be very important for direction," he said.
"The market is focused on individual stories at the moment rather than overall direction."
Mr Esho said the market had started strongly after positive offshore leads but the financial sector had fizzled out and the resources sector failed to gain much traction.
Mr Esho said there needed to be some significant moves in the resources sector to boost the overall market, which may come when companies start reporting their financial results around August.
On the local bourse, News Corp rose 87 cents, or 4.05 per cent, to $22.37 after reports from the US that the company's board had approved the split of its entertainment and publishing divisions.
The company's non-voting scrip lifted 70 cents, or 3.27 per cent, to $22.13.
Fairfax Media was 1.5 cents lower at 54 cents after Gina Rinehart's bid for seats on the company's board was rejected.
Grocery wholesaler Metcash was in a trading halt due to a capital raising. It last traded at $3.74.
Metcash said on Thursday that its full year profit tumbled 63 per cent as a result of the cost a major restructure of the company, its acquisition of Franklins, and tough trading conditions.
Oil refiner Caltex Australia gained 13 cents to $13.28 after it said it expected first half profit for calendar 2012 to rise by up to 81 per cent due to higher refinery production.
Oil and gas producer Santos retreated 59 cents, or 5.34 per cent, to $10.45 after it said the cost of its Gladstone liquefied natural gas (GLNG) project had risen by 15 per cent.
Elsewhere in the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton was 13 cents higher at $30.73, and Rio Tinto firmed eight cents to $55.16.
Among the major banks, National Australia Bank was four cents weaker at $23.34, ANZ sagged four cents to $21.50, Commonwealth Bank climbed 47 cents to $52.62, and Westpac gave away 10 cents at $20.82.
The price of gold in Sydney was $US1,575.405 per fine ounce, up $US4.65 on Wednesday's closing price of $US1,570.755.
National turnover was 1.6 billion securities worth $3.85 billion, with 492 stocks up, 524 down and 423 unchanged.
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