Shares have edged lower on the Australian market ahead of a cash rate decision and what is expected to be a big-spending federal budget.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was down 16 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 5925.6 at 1200 AEDT on Tuesday.
The All Ordinaries index was down by 11.5 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 6123.6.
Financials were down 0.57 per cent and health declined by 0.8 per cent.
The heftiest losses were in property, 1.51 per cent, and utilities, 1.32 per cent.
The best sectors were energy, up 1.82 per cent, and materials, which rose by 0.68 per cent.
Economists were split on whether Reserve Bank officials will cut the cash rate from 0.25 per cent, hours before the federal budget is released.
The RBA’s monthly decision will come before a federal budget aimed at helping the economy out of the coronavirus recession.
While some economists expect a rate cut to 0.1 per cent, others believe the bank will cut next month.
Meanwhile, consumer confidence has risen for a fifth straight week.
The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index has risen to its highest level since late June, and is more than 10 per cent above a recent trough in August.
ANZ also released monthly job advertisement data for September.
While it showed a 7.8 per cent increase in jobs ads in the month, and building on an upwardly revised 2.6 per cent increase in August, they still remain 21 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
Other data showed Australia’s trade position took a big hit in August.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the trade surplus of goods and services almost halved in the month, to $2.6 billion from $4.7 billion in July.
This was the result of exports tumbling four per cent, while imports rose by two per cent.
On the market, miners Northern Star and Saracen Mineral have announced a $16 billion merger they say would create a gold giant among the top 10 in the world.
Northern Star would acquire all shares in Saracen.
Saracen shareholders would receive 0.3763 Northern Star shares for each Saracen one. Saracen would also pay a special, fully-franked dividend of 3.8 cents per Saracen share.
Shares in Northern Star were up by 7.16 per cent to $14.81.
Shares in Saracen were higher by 6.99 per cent to $5.58.
Among the major miners, BHP edged up by 0.02 per cent to $36.15 after it took an additional 28 per cent interest in the Shenzi oil and gas field in the Gulf of Mexico.
The purchase cost $US505 million and gives the miner 72 per cent control.
Rio Tinto gained 0.48 per cent to $96.16 and Fortescue climbed by 0.78 per cent to $16.59.
Insurance Australia Group was down 1.83 per cent to $4.54 after agreeing to pay $138 million due to a class action against subsidiaries Swann Insurance and Insurance Australia.
The claims centred on insurance products sold through car and motorcycle dealers.
IAG expects an after-tax impact of less than $50 million.
In banking, ANZ dropped 0.61 per cent to $17.69, the Commonwealth shed 0.4 per cent to $65.72, NAB lost 0.65 per cent to $18.07 and Westpac slipped 0.52 per cent to $17.20.
Earlier in the US, Wall Street rallied as hopes for economic aid from Washington helped it recover all its knee-jerk losses after learning President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.
The market’s rally accelerated after Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that he would leave hospital, which he has done since.
The S&P 500 jumped 60.19 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 3,408.63. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 465.83 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 28,148.64, and the Nasdaq climbed 257.47, or 2.3 per cent, to 11,332.49.
The Aussie dollar was buying 71.93 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 71.81 US cents after the close of trade on Monday.