Banks up as investors factor in rate cut

THE sharemarket closed mostly flat yesterday in quiet trade on what was a public holiday for most of the country, but the financial sector managed to finish the day on a high.

THE sharemarket closed mostly flat yesterday in quiet trade on what was a public holiday for most of the country, but the financial sector managed to finish the day on a high.

At the close of trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was 1.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, higher at 4388.6 points.

Australian Stock Report head of research Geoff Saffer said trading remained subdued throughout the day due to the public holiday in most states and territories.

But he said the financial sector posted gains for the day as the market anticipated the Reserve Bank would cut the cash rate by 25 basis points today.

"The banks all managed to close in positive territory, probably due to the market factoring in a rate cut tomorrow," he said.

ANZ closed 4? higher at $24.79, Commonwealth Bank was 8? up to $55.85, National Australia Bank gained 5? to $25.54 and Westpac was up 9? at $24.94.

US sharemarkets finished lower on Friday, the last trading day of the third quarter, after disappointing business activity and consumer spending reports fuelled concerns about the economy. European stocks also fell due to persistent concerns about Spain, where a decision from ratings agency Moody's is due, which could take the country to junk bond status.

There was little company news given the public holiday across most of the country.

Newcrest Mining shares fell 10? to $29.04 after it said it would vigorously defend itself against four legal challenges that threaten part of its $2 billion plans to build Australia's largest underground mine.

Arrium, formerly OneSteel, shares were up 13.?, or 24.77 per cent, at 68? after it said it had rejected a $1 billion takeover offer from a consortium of Singapore and Korean groups. The approach to the steel maker and miner was made on Friday evening.

BHP Billiton closed 8? higher at $33.12 and Rio Tinto was flat at $53.36.

The spot price of gold in Sydney finished at $US1766.58 an ounce, down $US14.62 from Friday's local close of $US1781.20.

National turnover was 949.5 million securities worth $1.88 billion, with 370 stocks up, 408 down and 320 unchanged.

The dollar fell to a one-week low after the release of weak Chinese manufacturing data and amid continuing concerns about Spanish government debt. At 5pm yesterday, the Aussie was trading at US103.60?, down from US104.56? on Friday. During local trade, it fell as low as US103.26?, its lowest since September 21

IG Markets institutional trader Chris Weston said the Chinese purchasing managers' index was the key reason why the dollar was weak yesterday.

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