Market slips but October is still on a high

The sharemarket fell nearly half a per cent as investors took profits after recent record highs reached by three of the big four banks.

The sharemarket fell nearly half a per cent as investors took profits after recent record highs reached by three of the big four banks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index dropped 25.9 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 5415.5 on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries lost 26.6 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 5410.7.

ANZ continued to hit new highs after making a record $6.5 billion cash profit in the year to September, but shares in the rest of the big four lost ground.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said investors sold out to book gains made from the recent strong runs posted by Westpac and Commonwealth Bank.

"There's been a bit of profit taking given that we've seen a strong performance by the banks," Ms Lee said.

ANZ gained 39¢, or 1.2 per cent, to $33.63, while NAB finished flat at $36.68, Westpac dropped 1¢ to $34.60 and Commonwealth Bank was 61¢ lower at $76.79. "Still, it has been a fantastic month of October," Ms Lee said. The market has risen by 3.7 per cent in the month, with two trading days remaining.

Mixed leads from overseas markets had also weighed on local shares.

US and European stocks were flat as investors waited for a two-day US Federal Reserve policy meeting, which is expected to maintain the central bank's stimulus program and provide clues about when the program's winding down might begin.

In the resources sector, BHP Billiton fell 26¢ to $37.59, Rio Tinto dropped 97¢ to $63.41 and Fortescue Metals fell 10¢ to $5.32.

But the real focus remains on the US, rather than Australia, as the market awaits the Federal Open Market Committee's monetary policy decision on Thursday morning, Australian time, Nomura head of macro products Jon Linton said.

"We have a lot of US data coming up over the next few days including the US Fed decision and I think that will drive us rather than domestic Australian issues," he said. "The market is constantly looking for more information around tapering because that will set the tone for the whole of the fixed income markets globally."