THE Australian sharemarket closed marginally lower after investors decided to reap their profits late in the trading session.
At the close on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 3.1 points at 4716.6, while the broader All Ordinaries lost 2.7 points to 4743.
Paterson's Securities associate director Mark Goulopoulos said the market dipped after the late session of profit-taking. "We've had generally a pretty positive start to the year so we had a bit of profit-taking this afternoon," he said.
"We were down as much as 10 or 12 points until the Rio production report came out . . . the market liked it and we closed off just three points down."
Mining company Rio Tinto announced that it had lifted global iron ore production by 4 per cent to a record 253 million tonnes in 2012. Rio shares still closed 9¢ down at $65.90 but recovered from an intraday low of $65.33. BHP Billiton closed 4¢ lower at $36.53 and Fortescue lost 9¢ to $4.64.
Beleaguered retailer Billabong's shares surged 16 per cent to 98¢ after it announced it had received a second takeover offer, this time from VF Corporation, owner of North Face and Timberland brands, and US private equity firm Altamont Capital Partners.
The four big banks had a mixed day of trading. ANZ finished 6¢ up at $25.27 and Commonwealth Bank jumped 12¢ to $61.75. However, Westpac tumbled 14¢ to $26.36 and NAB lost 3¢ to $25.71.
The spot price of Sydney gold closed at $US1671.63, up $US4.83.
The Australian dollar has ended a touch lower, after traders were disappointed by a speech from US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
The dollar was trading at US105.48¢, down from Monday's local close of US105.56¢.
The market was hoping to hear more from Dr Bernanke about the US central bank's quantitative easing, or economic stimulus, program.
However, there was little new in the Fed chairman's remarks, leaving the market disappointed.
"It turned out to be a bit of a fizzer," ForexCT head of research Steven Dooley said. "There were expectations that we might see a big move in the markets but in actuality we didn't see much at all."
And with little else to offer direction, the dollar drifted along in quiet trading.
Mr Dooley said there continued to be good support for the Australian dollar. He said the currency could break through US106¢ this week on the back of strong November jobs data due on Thursday and Chinese economic growth figures to come out on Friday.
"The Aussie dollar has definitely got an upward bias to it," Mr Dooley said.