SYDNEY, AAP – Insurers’ earnings attracted plenty of investors but the ASX was flat as others made strategic exits from market giants.

QBE Insurance shares were up almost nine per cent on Thursday after the company returned to first-half profit.

Shares in rival IAG shares rose by nearly five per cent after it reinstated a final dividend the previous day.

However, the market was stagnant due to considerable losses for Rio Tinto and the Commonwealth Bank.

Rio shares were ex-dividend and plummeted almost seven per cent to $120.37.


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The Commonwealth lost two per cent to $105.99 after impressing investors a day earlier with full-year earnings.

The rest of the big four banks were little changed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was higher by 4.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7589 at 1200 AEST.

The All Ordinaries was up 8.1 points, or 0.10 per cent, to 7862.7.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed at record levels as data indicated US inflation growth may have peaked.

The consumer price index increased 0.5 per cent last month after climbing 0.9 per cent in June, the largest drop in month-to-month inflation in 15 months.

The easing inflation may cause Federal Reserve officials to wait longer before tapering support measures. These measures were designed to help the economy through the pandemic.

In Australia, people in the Australian Capital Territory will enter a seven-day lockdown.

They join millions of people in NSW and Victoria enduring stay-at-home orders.

NAB gave a third-quarter update and said cash earnings were up more than 10 per cent on the same quarter last year.

Housing lending grew by two per cent while lending to small business improved by 4.3 per cent.

Boss Ross McEwan said coronavirus lockdowns were causing challenges for customers but he was optimistic about the long term.

Shares were lower by 0.03 per cent to $27.21.

Investors approved of AMP’s first-half performance despite there being no interim dividend.

Company leaders claimed underlying earnings improved despite a fall in net profit after tax to $146 million.

Shares were 2.31 per cent to $1.10.

Telstra has detailed a $1.35 billion share buyback for investors after what is says is a turnaround in its earnings.

The telco said its underlying business, which excludes the costs of customers leaving for the National Broadband Network, would return to growth this financial year.

Telstra improved full-year profit after tax by 3.4 per cent to $1.9 billion.

Shares were up 3.91 per cent to $3.98.

Rio Tinto’s main rivals were higher. BHP improved by 0.11 per cent to $52.58. Fortescue climbed by 0.64 per cent to $22.66.

Grain storage and handling provider GrainCorp was one of the biggest movers.

Its shares rose 14.9 per cent to $6.29 after the company hiked its full-year earnings forecast.

Underlying earnings were raised to between $310 million and $330 million. The range had been $255 million to $285 million.

The Australian dollar was buying 73.65 US cents at 1200 AEST on Thursday, higher from 73.36 US cents at Wednesday’s close.