THE sharemarket finished slightly lower yesterday as investors abandoned energy and resource stocks and found value in the beaten-down retail sector.
At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 7.4 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 4376.
CMC Markets analyst David Land said it was strange to see energy and resource stocks under pressure as retail stocks posted gains. "It was quite a mixed day," Mr Land said.
"Materials were under pressure for most of the day and energy stocks were weighed down."
Some smaller retail stocks surprised the market with better than expected earnings results.
BHP Billiton's 34.8 per cent slump in full-year net profit was broadly better than expected, leading its shares to finish 11?, or 0.3 per cent, lower at $33.16. Rio Tinto fell 31?, or 0.6 per cent, to $54.10.
The big banks were mixed, with Commonwealth falling 46?, or 0.8 per cent, to $55.34. ANZ was up 0.04 per cent to $24.96, while Westpac fell 0.08 per cent to trade at $24.89 and National Australia Bank dropped 11? to $25.26.
Seven West Media jumped 0.5 per cent to $1.49, following a net profit increase of 97.1 per cent to $226.9 million.
Woodside closed 3.3 per cent lower at $34.80 after the company's first-half profit fell slightly on the costs of starting up its massive Pluto liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia.
In the retail sector, Reject Shop shares rose 8.1 per cent to $10.59 after the discount retailer posted a full-year net profit of $21.92 million, up 35.6 per cent from the previous 12 months to June 30. Noni B rose 10 per cent to 82? after the women's fashion retailer delivered a tenfold increase in full-year profit.
National turnover was 1.59 billion shares, worth $4 billion.