SYDNEY, AAP – Company leaders put a positive spin on tricky times but investors were not always persuaded on a busy day of annual meetings and quarterly updates.

Endeavour Group and Crown Resorts were unable to convince investors of better times ahead at their annual meetings on a listless Thursday for the Australian market.

While Australia’s economy may be reopening from COVID-19 lockdowns, some companies still have a struggle ahead.

The boss of bottle shop and pubs operator Endeavour, Steve Donohue, said virus rules made the next 12 months extremely difficult to forecast.

Shares dropped more than two per cent.

Meanwhile Crown Resorts investors delivered a second strike on executive pay but stopped short of unseating the board.

Investors raised concerns over benefits paid to senior executives who left earlier this year following a NSW inquiry which prompted royal commissions in other states.

Shares fell about half a per cent to $9.47.

Property shares were easily the best on a mixed market where few categories made substantial gains

Shopping centre operator Scentre Group rose by more than three per cent. Stockland and Mirvac improved by more than two per cent.

There was little movement for the heavyweight categories of materials and financials.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 1.7 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7415.4.

The All Ordinaries closed up 1.3 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7728.5.

On Friday, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe will speak about central bank independence as part of a university forum.

Insurer IAG will be among the companies having annual general meetings.

Overseas, attention was back on troubled property giant Evergrande, which shelved plans to sell a $US2.6 billion ($A3.5 billion) stake in a division.

Evergrande was in talks to sell a 50.1 per cent stake in its property services arm to smaller rival Hopson Development Holdings.

Yet Evergrande has since said Hopson had not met the “prerequisite to make a general offer”.

The US third-quarter earnings season will continue.

Investors have been encouraged by earnings reports, which helped US markets close mostly higher in the previous session.

BlueScope Steel was among the best performing ASX miners after raising its first-half earnings guidance.

Strong demand in Australia and the US had led to an earnings range of up to $2.3 billion. The range had previously been up to $2 billion.

Shares were up 0.75 per cent to $20.28.

Among bigger rivals, BHP and Fortescue each lost less than one per cent. Rio Tinto shed 1.32 per cent.

In banking, ANZ lost half a per cent, the Commonwealth was little changed while NAB and Westpac gained less than one per cent.

Transurban says there are signs motorists will quickly return to toll roads in Sydney and Melbourne after coronavirus rules stymied first-quarter traffic.

In the first week of eased restrictions this month, the company’s Sydney toll roads had their most traffic since late June.

Traffic in the first week of freedom was down by 11 per cent on 2019 levels, a substantial improvement on the week before when traffic was down 31 per cent by the same comparison.

Shares were down 1.3 per cent to $13.62.

The Australian dollar was buying 75.02 US cents at 1726 AEDT, higher from 74.92 US cents at Wednesday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed higher by 1.7 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7415.4 on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries closed up 1.3 points, or 0.02 per cent, to 7728.5.

* At 1726 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down six points, or 0.08 per cent, at 7381 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.02 US cents, from 74.92 cents on Wednesday

* 85.54 Japanese yen, from 85.74 yen

* 64.36 Euro cents, from 64.31 cents

* 54.30 British pence, from 54.28 pence

* 104.34 NZ cents, from 104.46 cents.