Australian shares have closed marginally down after a spike in the price of iron ore that boosted mining companies couldn’t make up for losses elsewhere.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 5.7 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 6184.8 points at 1615 AEDT on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 7 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 6276.6.
“It’s one of these days, the market seems pretty much directionless, swinging between gains and losses,” said CommSec market analyst James Tao.
Investors are waiting the US Federal Reserve to update its “dot plot” projections on interest rates, which will be released early on Thursday Australia time, as well as Australian jobs figures, which will be released later on Thursday.
“If we get good job data there might be less and less noise for a rate cut,” Mr Tao said.
The mining sector – up 0.91 per cent as a whole – led gains after Chinese iron ore futures increased and a Brazilian court ordered Vale SA to suspend two more dam operations.
BHP was up 1.65 per cent to $37.59 and Rio Tinto was up 1.7 per cent to $94.75.
The steepest falls were in health care, where shares were collectively down 1.43 per cent, mostly dragged down by CSL. The pharma giant dipped 1.64 per cent to $193.58.
Tech shares were collectively down 0.55 per cent, with Xero, Altium Limited and Appen all down between 1.18 and 1.96 per cent.
The big four banks were all in the red, with Commonwealth was down 0.67 per cent to $71.33; NAB down 0.64 per cent to $24.96; ANZ down 0.42 to $26.30; and Westpac down 0.38 per cent to $26.42 after it said it was exiting the scandal-hit personal financial advice business.
Westpac said selling its personal advice business would result in one-off costs of $250 million to $300 million across two years, but earnings-per-share would eventually improve as it left the high cost, loss-making business.
Coal miner New Hope Corp was down 11.79 per cent, to $3.89, despite saying its net profit for the six months to January 31 had risen four per cent, to $120.2 million.
Mr Tao said the numbers weren’t bad and called the size of the drop disproportionate.
Cann Group soared 37.72 per cent, to $2.30, a one-month high, after the medical cannabis grower said it had found a new location for its planned $130 million marijuana greenhouse, in regional Victoria.
Caltex Australia was down 3.54 per cent, to $27.54, after it said its retail fuel margins had softened due to the higher crude prices and “competitor activity”.
It expects to make $160 million to $170 million from retail sales in the first quarter, down $35 million to $45 million from a year ago.
Telco TPG was up 4.39 per cent, to $7.14, after it said its underlying earnings were up 2.8 per cent to $424.4 million, excluding one-off hits from scrapping its plans to roll out a mobile network.
Intellectual property firm QANTM was down 0.35 per cent after merger partner Xenith rebuffed an unsolicited takeover offer from IPH.
IPH slumped 1.47 per cent and Xenith was down 1.36 per cent.
Reserve Bank minutes released on Tuesday show the board raised “significant uncertainties” over the state of the Australian economy when they kept the cash rate at a record low 1.5 per cent this month.
The Aussie dollar is buying 71.03 US cents, from 71.12 US cents on Monday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 5.7 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 6184.8 points at 1630 AEDT on Tuesday.
* The All Ordinaries was down seven points, or 0.11 per cent, to 6276.6.
* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down three points, or 0.05 per cent, at 6811.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 71.03 US cents, from 70.84 US on Monday
* 79.00 Japanese yen, from 79.12
* 62.60 euro cents, from 62.60
* 53.51 British pence, from 53.50
* 103.53 NZ cents, from 103.44