ANALYSTS yesterday blamed the midweek Anzac Day holiday for the sharemarket session yesterday being the second-slowest of the year by value of shares traded.
With just $2.65 billion worth of trades on the S&P/ASX 200 Index, the only day when the market has performed worse this year was the first trading day of 2012, when turnover was $1.8 billion.
Analysts said investors were naturally cautious before the release today of crucial inflation data, but that the midweek holiday had scared off the large institutional investors, which kept the bigger trades away.
"This week will be another write-off," Goldman Sachs' Richard Coppleson said, "but [after] this week we should slowly see things pick up."
The benchmark index closed down 14.1 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 4352.4 points.
The positive leads from Wall Street and European markets failed to prevent the market losing ground, with most sectors performing poorly.
The falls were led by the materials sector, which ended 0.7 per cent lower, while industrials dropped 0.6 per cent, financials ended flat, and telcos rose 0.6 per cent.
But pockets of strength could be still found in higher-yielding, dividend-paying sectors, including telcos and financial stocks.
Commonwealth Bank was up 1? at $50.95, ANZ gained 1? to $23.46 and Westpac rose 4? to $22.14. However, NAB slipped 11? to $25.08.
Telstra finished 2?, or 0.6 per cent, better at $3.40.
"We could see a rally if the March-quarter consumer price index data [today] comes within expectations," said Macquarie Equities division director Lucinda Chan.
Analysts expect the key measure of underlying inflation to show a rise of 0.6 per cent for the first quarter, nudging the annual rate down to about 2.4 per cent, comfortably within the Reserve Bank's long-term target band of between 2 and 3 per cent.
The RBA has indicated it will consider cutting the 4.25 per cent cash rate at its next policy meeting on May 1, providing inflation numbers are tame.
Producer price data released yesterday supported the case for monetary easing, showing the prices of final goods dropped 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, well below analyst forecasts for an increase of 0.5 per cent.
Yesterday, diversified conglomerate Wesfarmers was down 13?, or 0.4 per cent, at $29.34 after analysts reported that third-quarter sales at its Coles supermarket unit could fall short of arch rival Woolworths as shelf prices continued to fall amid heavy discounting.