The Australian share market has finished marginally in negative territory after sitting in the red throughout the last day of a shortened trading week.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished down 4.7 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 6,050.0 points on Thursday, as rising commodities lifted the mining companies and offset broad weakness across the market ahead of Friday’s shutdown for the Australia Day public holiday.
CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said investors rotated back towards the growth-oriented sectors of the market following on from Wednesday’s second consecutive session of gains.
“The good support for utilities, trusts and financials has been reversed and they’re at the bottom of the pile today; materials and energy led the market higher this morning, while the rest of the market has tried to moderate its losses,” Mr McCarthy said.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index, despite the looming long weekend, had strong market turnover – well above $6 billion ahead of the close – that took the index down as much as 0.4 per cent in early trade before regaining most of the lost ground by the close.
Assisted by a tumbling US dollar, strength in iron ore and copper and a resurgent gold price lifted key materials stocks with BHP Billiton up 0.6 per cent to $30.85, Rio Tinto up 0.8 per cent at $78.81, and Fortescue Metals gaining 1.6 per cent to $5.10.
Shares in the mining services company Mineral Resources gained 3.6 per cent to $19.43 after its Chinese state-owned rival in bidding for oil and gas outfit AWE did not increase its offer of $0.73 per share, leaving MinRes as the frontrunner.
Gold miner Newcrest added 2.2 per cent at $23.36 as gold prices rose.
Fellow producer Northern Star also added two per cent to $6.26 despite a dip in December quarter sales, as the company expressed confidence of achieving bullish full-year production guidance.
Mr McCarthy said pressure in the energy sector was most obvious among the coal players, with Yancoal down 2.9 per cent and New Hope losing 2.4 per cent, however, Whitehaven gained 3.3 per cent.
Santos gave up its early gains, closing 0.8 per cent lower at $5.20, while Woodside Petroleum gained 0.4 per cent to $34.04.
All four big banks reversed Wednesday’s positions, with National Australia Bank and the ANZ leading the losses, 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent lower, Westpac shedding 0.3 per cent and Wednesday’s loser, the Commonwealth Bank, breaking even at $78.65.
Medibank Private shares rose two cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $3.31 after news the insurer and its rival NIB announced plans to increase private health insurance premiums by less than the 3.95 per cent average flagged through by the federal government.
NIB shares gained 0.3 per cent to $6.79.
On currency markets, concerns over US protectionism and comments from US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin welcoming a weaker greenback drove the US dollar to a three year low against a basket of major currencies, with the Australian dollar rising to 81.05 US cents at 1700 AEDT, up from 80.17 on Wednesday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 4.7 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 6,050.0 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index finished down 4.1 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 6,164.7 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was down two points, or 0.03 per cent, at 5,999 points
* National turnover was 3.7 billion securities traded worth $6.4 billion
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:
* 81.05 US cents, from 80.17 US cents on Wednesday
* 88.29 Japanese yen, from 88.13 yen
* 65.11 euro cents, from 65.03 euro cents
* 56.69 British pence, from 57.13 pence
* 109.85 NZ cents, from 108.83 NZ cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,364.67 per fine ounce, from $US1,341.99 per fine ounce on Wednesday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.069pct, from 2.0796pct on Wednesday
* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.8022pct, from 2.7827pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* March 2018 10-year bond futures contract at 97.145 (implying a yield of 2.855pct), from 97.17 (2.83pct) on Wednesday
* March 2018 3-year bond futures contract unchanged at 97.74 (2.26pct).
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)