Moody's gives big four banks thumbs up
The sharemarket closed flat with gains in bank stocks - which rose after international ratings agency Moody's endorsed Australian banks - offset by falls in big mining stocks.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index edged up 4.2 points, or 0.1 per cent to 5357, while the broader All Ordinaries index added 4.5 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5350.6.
Moody's said its outlook on the big four banks was stable.
"As the investment boom in the resources sector moderates, and the decline in the terms of trade weighs on national income disruption, our outlook on the banks' credit standing remains stable because of their improved balance sheet strength, funding profiles and financial flexibility," Patrick Winsbury, a senior vice-president of Moody's, said.
Financial services was the best-performing sector, up 0.4 per cent, as the big four banks all closed higher. Commonwealth Bank led the market, gaining 0.8 per cent to $76.85. Westpac added 0.7 per cent to $32.76, while National Australia Bank rose 0.9 per cent to $34.40 and ANZ gained 0.5 per cent to $31.95.
Wealth management and insurance group AMP added 1.3 per cent to $4.73, while Insurance Australia Group gained 1.3 per cent to $6.21.
Woolworths rose 0.4 per cent to $34.08 as chairman Ralph Waters assured shareholders its loss-making home improvement business Masters would eventually break even or make a profit in 2016. Materials and mining was the worst-performing sector, down 0.5 per cent, as heavyweight BHP Billiton lost 0.2 per cent to $37.80.
Rio Tinto fell 0.6 per cent to $65.04. It was reported Rio Tinto is likely to close its loss-making Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory as talks with the government continue. The plant is the biggest employer in Arnhem Land.
Uranium miner Paladin Energy was the best-performing stock, up 11.4 per cent at 44¢.
Junior gold stocks were mostly higher as the precious metal's spot price recovered to $US1253.31, although Australia's biggest goldminer, Newcrest Mining, fell 1.9 per cent to $8.10.
Sentiment towards companies servicing the resources sector is generally negative following a series of recent forecast downgrades from industry players including WorleyParsons and Ausdrill.
Poker machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure shed 2.9 per cent to $4.63 after reporting it had boosted full-year net profit by 17 per cent despite a 3.5 per cent fall in revenue.