Miners, banks balance each other out

THE sharemarket finished marginally lower yesterday, as the big banks helped balance the losses by the miners, who were weighed down by weaker commodity prices.

THE sharemarket finished marginally lower yesterday, as the big banks helped balance the losses by the miners, who were weighed down by weaker commodity prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 3.2 points to 4483.4.

Materials lost 0.8 per cent, energy fell 0.4 per cent, but financials and consumer staples both gained 0.3 per cent.

"It was a real battle between the banks and the miners, certainly it was a pretty flat session, with not a lot of conviction coming through from offshore movement," said CommSec markets analyst Juliette Saly.

"On Friday, we did see the financials weigh on Wall Street, European markets were also lower, weaker on commodity prices, and those weaker commodity prices are certainly taking away from the miners," Ms Saly said.

BHP dropped 0.6 per cent, to $33.35, while Rio Tinto fell 1 per cent to $55.82. Fortescue Metals lost 3.4 per cent to finish at $3.72. Aquarius Platinum was also under pressure, falling 6.5 per cent to 58? on reports its Zimbabwean joint venture had paid royalties to the country's government.

Among the banks, ANZ added 0.4 per cent to $25.77, CBA rose 0.1 per cent to $56.93, NAB jumped 0.5 per cent to $26.34, while Westpac traded relatively flat at $25.69.

Billabong continued its spiral down, falling a further 6.6 per cent, to 78?, as investors fled the surfwear retailer after private equity firm TPG withdrew its bid for the company on Friday.

Ten Network also suffered on speculation that a buyer for its outdoor advertising business, Eye Corp, was considering pulling its bid. The broadcaster lost 5.4 per cent, to finish at 35?.

"Apparently it's been looking at the books and isn't entirely convinced. Though Ten says the talks still continue," said Ms Saly.

Among other media stocks, Seven West Media dropped 1.9 per cent to $1.28, Fairfax lost 1.3 per cent to 38.5? and News Ltd edged up 0.1 per cent to finish at $24.15.

Chinese data, including gross domestic product and retail sales, due out on Thursday, and earnings reports from the US were likely to shape the Australian market this week, Ms Saly said.

"The other encouraging thing to note is that we are still relatively holding near 14-month highs, so certainly a bit of a flat start to the trading week, but nothing to panic about," she said.

The dollar is half a cent lower, failing to hold on to the weekend gains that came after the announcement of a surge in Chinese exports, which rose 9.9 per cent in the year to September 30.

At 5pm yesterday, the dollar was trading at US102.23?, down from US102.77? on Friday. CMC foreign exchange dealer Tim Waterer said the Australian dollar started the day on the front foot but then fell away.

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