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ASX flat as miners gain, big banks dip

Derek Rose
The futures market suggests the ASX will open slightly higher

The Australian share market has closed flat as the heavyweight mining and finance sectors pulled in opposite directions.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished down 2.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 6,543.7 points at 1615 AEST on Wednesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 4.5 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 6,628.9.

"A day of two haves, really, for the Aussie market," said CommSec market analyst James Tao.

It began with strong gains for major mining companies pushing the ASX200 up 40 points following a 4.5 per cent rise in the price of iron ore, Mr Tao said.

But then the financial sector moved lower after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority released new regulations requiring banks to hold more capital on interest-only loans and loans to property investors.

While the share market ended the day about where it began, it was tough to complain, Mr Tao observed - the ASX200 closed just shy of its 11-and-a-half year high.

"Certainly we could be in a much worse position," he said.

The mining sector finished up 2.1 per cent with BHP up 2.7 per cent to $39.75, Fortescue Metals up 6.3 per cent to $8.61 and Rio Tinto gaining 1.9 per cent to $102.41.

The financial sector was down 0.7 per cent as a whole with Commonwealth Bank down 1.3 per cent to $79.87, ANZ down 1.4 per cent to $28.26, NAB falling 0.8 per cent to $27.01 and Westpac dropping 0.9 per cent to $28.04.

The healthcare sector had the sharpest fall on the ASX, slumping 1.7 per cent following Tuesday's 3.5 per cent gain.

Pharma giant CSL was down 2.2 per cent to $207.84 and Cochlear was down 2.3 per cent to $201.73.

Wesfarmers was up 0.8 per cent to $38.25 after announcing it was acquiring online retailer Catch Group for $230 million.

Wesfarmers intends to use the Catch of the Day website operator's technology to beef up the e-commerce capabilities of its Kmart and Target subsidiaries.

Afterpay was up 6.1 per cent to $25.64 after the buy-now, pay-later company completed its $317 million capital raising effort.

Emeco Holdings gained 14.2 per cent to $1.885 after the earthmoving equipment rental company flagged it expected earnings for the financial year to be up almost 40 per cent.

"Market conditions continue to be positive and outlook for FY20 remains strong, with total material movement continuing to increase and equipment supply remaining tight," it said.

The Aussie dollar is buying 69.46 US cents, from 69.55 US cents on Tuesday.

Looking forward, Australian jobs data for May will be released on Thursday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 2.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 6,543.7 points at 1630 AEST on Wednesday.

* The All Ordinaries was up 4.5 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 6,628.9.

* At 1630 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down three points, or 0.05 per cent, to 6,628.9.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 69.46 US cents, from 69.55 US cents on Tuesday

* 75.25 Japanese yen, from 75.52 yen

* 61.29 euro cents, from 61.47 cents

* 54.59 British pence, from 54.88 pence

* 105.62 NZ cents, from 105.45 cents