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ASX finishes flat as lithium stocks fall

The local share market has finished little changed, with gains by the financial and tech sectors balanced by losses by lithium miners and property trusts.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Tuesday down 4.7 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 7141.6, while the broader All Ordinaries dipped 4.8 points to 7345.4, a 0.07 per cent drop.

"Today it's really lithium stocks that have really been touched up today," SG Hiscock & Co portfolio manager Hamish Tadgell told AAP.

Mr Tadgell blamed softer demand from China, where there were reports of a major cathode producer cutting production, and new GDP figures for Japan showing its economy unexpectedly shrunk in the third quarter.

"I think those two things might be weighing on the sector today."

Pilbara Minerals fell 8.7 per cent to $4.83, Allkem dropped 12.4 per cent to $14.25, IGO fell 7.4 per cent to $15.36 and Core Lithium retreated 15.8 per cent to $1.57. Rare earths producer Lynas dropped 7.2 per cent to $8.40.

Elsewhere in the sector, BHP edged 0.2 per cent lower at $43.94, Fortescue Metals dropped 0.8 per cent to $19.40 and Rio Tinto gained 0.4 per cent to $106.42.

Goldminer Evolution rose 1.9 per cent and Northern Star 0.2 per cent.

Overall the sector was down one per cent after rising a combined 7.2 per cent over Friday and Monday.

The big banks had a mixed day with CBA the biggest gainer, rising 1.3 per cent to $106.48 after announcing it made an unaudited cash profit of $2.5 billion in the September quarter.

Mr Tadgell called it a "reasonably solid" result for Australia's biggest bank and second-biggest company.

Westpac was up 0.5 per cent to $23.96, ANZ dipped 0.2 per cent to $24.23 and NAB, trading ex-dividend, was down 2.5 per cent to $30.49.

The interest-rate-sensitive real estate sector was the biggest laggard, falling 1.5 per cent as Reserve Bank minutes revealed the central bank was prepared to return to more aggressive 50 basis point rate hikes "if the situation warranted".

Office tower owner Dexus dropped 4.4 per cent to a six-year low of $7.48, mall owner Vicinity Centres fell 1.8 per cent and warehouse owner Goodman Group declined 1.6 per cent.

In tech, Whispir soared 31.3 per cent to a three-week high of 65c after the communications platform announced plans to reduce its workforce 30 per cent, or 80 roles, in a bid to become cash-flow positive by early next year.

PDF software company Nitro Software was up 1.5 per cent to $2.09 after agreeing to be bought by Canadian software company Alludo for $2 per share.

Back in the material sector, Incitec Pivot was up 5.9 per cent to $3.96 after the fertiliser and explosives company increased its dividend and announced a $400 million share buyback after making a record $1 billion profit in the 12 months to September 30.

"Our four-year journey to deliver our Manufacturing Excellent opportunity has enabled us to capture significant value from the commodity upcycle," chief executive Jeanne Johns said.

AGL dropped 1.2 per cent to $7.61 as its shareholders elected four candidates nominated by activist investor Mike Cannon-Brookes, despite three of them being opposed by the utility's board.

AGL chairwoman Patricia McKenzie pledged to work "constructively with them".

United Malt Group was up 4.2 per cent to $3.25 after the brewery supplier said it expects a material increase in earnings in 2022/23 as North American crop conditions improve and it finishes a new plant in Scotland.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was trading around a two-month high against its US counterpart.

The Aussie dollar was buying 67.06 US cents, from 66.75 US cents at Monday's ASX close.

Looking forward, Mr Tadgell said market participants would be closely watching the overnight release of US producer price index figures for October to see if they corroborate the inflation slowdown seen in last week's CPI data.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday dropped 4.7 points to 7141.6, a 0.07 per cent decline.

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 4.8 points to 7345.4, a 0.07 per cent decline.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 67.06 US cents, from 66.75 US cents at Tuesday's close

* 94.13 Japanese yen, from 93.08 yen

* 64.93 Euro cents, from 64.76 euro cents

* 56.98 British pence, from 56.80 pence

* 109.64 NZ cents, from 109.73 NZ cents.