Shares were trading slightly lower on the Australian market as the Reserve Bank all but ruled out a negative cash rate to stimulate the economy.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 23.0 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 6019.2 points at 1200 AEST on Friday.

The All Ordinaries index was lower by 19.7 points, or 0.32 per cent, at 6160.6.

The bank said negative interest rates were an “extraordinary unlikely” course of action, even though it has predicted the unemployment rate to rise to 10 per cent by the end of the year.

In its quarterly statement on monetary policy, the central bank said negative interest rates would be a stimulatory benefit but can harm the supply of credit.

The statement comes in the first week of Melbourne’s stage four coronavirus restrictions, which have forced almost all retailers to close, limited manufacturing and had other impacts.

On the ASX, materials was the sector doing trade toughest, down 1.05 per cent.

Financials were down 0.52 per cent.

Consumer discretionaries led the gains, up by 0.66 per cent, followed by energy, higher by 0.45 per cent.

Insurance group IAG reported a full-year profit of $435 million, down almost 60 per cent, after a challenging period of drought, bushfires and a pandemic.

Investors gave the share price a nudge lower by 0.89 per cent to $5.02.

Australian Ethical Investment, which has produced solid results in recent times, crashed 14.86 per cent to $5.10 after IOOF Holdings sold most of its stake in the fund manager for $74.5 million.

IOOF chief executive Renato Mota said the investment produced significant returns, and Australian Ethical funds would remain on its platforms.

Theme park and cinema operator Village Roadshow gained 0.95 per cent to $2.12 after striking an acquisition deal with BGH Capital following lengthy talks.

BGH is proposing to buy all shares at a price of up to $2.45 per share.

In mining, BHP dropped 0.8 per cent to $39.50, Rio Tinto lost 2.02 per cent to $103.37 and Fortescue shed 1.88 per cent to $18.22.

That drop comes after solid gains for the miners on Thursday on higher commodity prices.

In banking, the big four banks and the Bank of Queensland, Bendigo and Macquarie were all lower by less than 1.0 per cent.

Spot gold reached a record high of $US2074.93 per ounce earlier and was trading at $2067.92 per ounce at 1200 AEST.

That record still did not help gold miners on the ASX. Northern Star had the biggest loss of majors, down 1.6 per cent to $16.03.

US markets closed higher after tech heavyweight stocks such as Apple made gains.

The Nasdaq ended the session above 11,000 points for the first time as investors hoped for a new fiscal stimulus package from the US government.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 185.46 points, or 0.68 per cent, to 27,386.98, the S&P 500 gained 21.39 points, or 0.64 per cent, to 3,349.16 and the Nasdaq Composite added 109.67 points, or 1 per cent, to 11,108.07.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.28 US cents at 1200 AEST, up from 72.12 US cents at Thursday’s close.