The Australian share market has closed steady with strong gains by the healthcare and utilities sectors countering yet another fall by Telstra and weakness among the banks and miners.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 2.9 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 6,084.5 points on Monday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 0.7 points, or 0.01 per cent at 6,190.2 points.
Macquarie Private Wealth division director Lucinda Chan said a heavy fall by the telecommunications sector led by Telstra and falls for banks and miners had offset gains in healthcare and utilities stocks.
“The health sector has really jumped with CSL and Cochlear both rallying for no particular reason given there was no company specific reports or news for that sector,” Ms Chan said.
“Locally and internationally there was not a lot of news to give the market any real direction either way.”
CSL leapt last Friday after improving its profit guidance and on Monday shares in the blood products and vaccine maker were up $3.17, or 1.7 per cent, to a renewed all-time high of $186.12.
Hearing implants maker Cochlear rose $2.15, or 1.1 per cent, to $198.93.
Ms Chan said helping the utilities sector was AGL which lifted after refusing Alinta Energy’s $250 million offer to buy its Liddell Power Station and reaffirming its decision to close the plant in 2022.
AGL shares added 23 cents, or 1.1 per cent, to $21.52.
Telstra dragged the telecommunications sector in the red as it suffered its second widespread network outage in a month on the back of an unfavourable trading update a week ago.
Telstra shares hit a new all-time low of $2.80, down five cents, or 1.8 per cent.
There was weakness among the miners after iron ore fell overnight by 1.6 per cent to $US66.70 a tonne with Fortescue Metals down 15 cents, or 3.1 per cent, to $4.71 while BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shed 0.4 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.
The major banks were mostly lower, given the banking royal commission has restarted hearings on Monday, except for ANZ which bucked the trend to rise 0.5 per cent.
The weakness on the local market comes despite a boost to US futures markets following positive moves on trade talks between the United States and China.
In company news, Santos was up 11 cents, or 1.8 per cent, at $6.36 after private equity suitor Harbour Energy increased its bid for the Australian oil and gas major to $US5.21 ($A6.95) a share from $US4.98 previously.
And Godfreys shares added 0.25 cents to 33.25 cents after 99-year-old co-founder John Johnston declared his takeover bid for the vacuum cleaner retailer was now unconditional as his stake passed 58 per cent.
The Australian dollar was slightly lower at 75.17 US cents by 1630 AEST, from 75.23 on Friday, after tracking above 75.3 US cents during the local session on the improved global trade outlook.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 closed down 2.9 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 6,084.5 points
* The broader All Ordinaries index was 0.7 points, or 0.01 per cent at 6,190.2 points
* The SPI200 futures contract was down five points, or 0.08 per cent, at 6,091 points
* National turnover was 2.7 billion securities traded worth $5.2 billion.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 75.08 US cents, from 75.23 on Friday
* 83.61 Japanese yen, from 83.39 yen
* 64.01 euro cents, from 63.68 euro cents
* 55.96 British pence, from 55.65 pence
* 108.98 NZ cents, from 109.09 cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,283.18 per fine ounce, from $US1,290.08 per fine ounce on Friday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:
* CGS 5.75 per cent May 2021, 2.2103pct, from 2.223pct on Friday
* CGS 2.25pct May 2028, 2.8887pct, from 2.9034pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.10 (implying a yield of 2.90pct), from 97.085 (2.915pct) on Friday
* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.745 (2.250pct), from 97.730 (2.270pct)