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Aussie shares have faded from a better start, with the ASX 200 flat at lunch due to losses from the major banks. Despite the unimpressive moves at lunch, keep in mind that the market had its best day in seven months on Monday (up 1.63 per cent) and remains just ~0.6 per cent away from hitting a record high.

Unless the ASX 200 slumps by 6 per cent over the next fortnight, the Australian sharemarket remains on track to have its best year in a decade. As far as volumes are concerned, there are only a few days left before activity tends to die down heading into a holiday interrupted week.

Drivers helping lift the local market in recent days have included the US and China agreeing to sign a Phase One trade deal, the Federal Government’s mid-year update on the economy, better data on China’s economy yesterday and the outcome from the UK general election late last week.

Locally, the banks and gold miners are keeping the market under pressure at lunch. Westpac (WBC) is down by 1.2 per cent and is the worst of the financials. This follows APRA ordering the bank to set aside an additional $500 million in capital while formally launching its investigation into possible breaches of the Banking Act. ANZ is down 0.4 per cent as it holds its Annual General Meeting with investors today.

Smartgroup (SIQ) is down 5 per cent on a broker downgrade. The salary packaging company slumped by 15 per cent yesterday after flagging lower profits. Its insurance underwriter changed terms on products it sells, which it expects will reduce its earnings by around $4 million. Salary packaging allows employees to increase disposable income by paying for certain expenses from their pre-tax income.

Northern Star (NST) has announced the purchase of a 50 per cent stake of the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines joint venture in WA for US$800 million from Newmont Mining. NST remains in a trading halt for a second day.

Weekly consumer confidence fell by 0.9 per cent according to the results of a survey this morning just a week out from the busiest time of the year for retailers.

952.4m shares have changed hands so far today worth $2bn. 478 stocks are up, 418 down and 349 are flat.

Published by CommSec