Aust stocks open flat

Local market begins little changed following modest falls on Wall Street.

The Australian stock market opened flat following falls on international markets after a report showing a dip in United States home prices and on worries about China.

At the 1015 AEDT official market open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index inched up 0.11% to 5,439.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 0.12% to 5,439.9 points.

In the US, the Case-Shiller index for home prices in 20 leading US cities fell 0.1% in December, the second straight monthly decline.

CMC chief market analyst Ric Spooner said a recent slide in the value of China's currency, the renminbi, and falls in Chinese stocks had led to caution among some investors.

"There appears to be some weakness in the materials sector, particularly with regards to BHP and Rio Tinto," he said.

"I think the background there is that there is a little bit of caution creeping into the market regarding the situation in China."

Mr Spooner said the recent strong performance of materials stocks would have added to the investor caution.

Materials were mostly lower.

BHP Billiton lost 1.07% to $38.68, while rival Rio Tinto fell 1.54% to $67.56.

Fortescue Metals fell 1.8% to $5.735, while Newcrest decreased 1.22% to $11.34.

Whitehaven Coal added 2.92% to $1.76 after narrowing its first-half loss.

Oil Search is in a trading halt and last traded at $8.57.

Santos added 0.58% to $13.78 and Woodside Petroleum rose 0.9% to $38.00.

Financials were broadly stronger, with the big four all in the black.

ANZ rose 0.44% to $32.16 and Commonwealth Bank added 0.5% to $75.65.

National Australia Bank lifted 0.75% to $34.77, while Westpac increased 0.78% to $33.68.

Investment bank Macquarie Group rose 0.05% to $55.85.

In insurance, QBE added 1.96% to $12.51, while IAG fell 0.35% to $5.63 and Suncorp fell 0.16% to $12.15.

The retail sector was mostly higher.

Woolworths rose 0.55% to $36.80, while Wesfarmers increased 0.73% to $43.01.

Myer lifted 0.39% to $2.56, while rival David Jones rose 1.71% to $3.275.

Harvey Norman rose 0.32%% to $3.17, while JB Hi-Fi rose 1.2% to $18.62.

In media, Fairfax Media was flat at 94 cents and News Corp increased 0.51% to $19.62.

21st Century Fox retreated 0.03% to $35.72.

Ten Network lost 1.45% to 34 cents, while Seven West added 0.46% to $2.19.

Southern Cross Media was flat at $1.45.

Telstra added 0.1% to $5.125, while Qantas rose 0.81% to $1.245.W

Wotif.com added 2.54% to $2.83 after unveiling a fall in first-half profit.

Westfield Group declined 2.9% to $10.37 after posting a 6.7% fall in full-year profit.

WorleyParsons added 3.55% to $16.04 on news of a decreased first-half profit.

In local economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases data for construction work done in the December quarter.

In Australia, the market on Tuesday broke its positive run and closed lower as a weaker iron ore price weighed on the resources sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index dropped 6.4 points, or 0.12%, to 5,433.8.

The broader All Ordinaries index shed 6.1 points, or 0.11%, lower at 5,444

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