Australia Markets closed

Aussie shares weighed down by BHP

Jason Cadden
Australian shares have closed flat, as a fall in BHP share offset gains in the energy sector

The Australian share market has had a flat finish to the day, as a 3.4 per cent fall in BHP shares after market giant went ex-dividend, offset any gains elsewhere.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed up 17 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 5,795.3 at 1615 AEDT on Thursday.

The broader All Ordinaries was up 15.5 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 5,853.9.

The energy sector gained 0.7 per cent after oil prices again rose, up over four per cent in offshore trade, with property trusts, materials and utilities the other major gainers.

But the major drag on the market was BHP shares falling $1.16 to $33.14, after the market giant paid shareholders a fully franked special dividend of $1.43 per share following the sale of its shale oil assets.

CommSec market analyst James Tao said the market would have had a much stronger finish if it wasn't for BHP.

"You've got a number of factors behind that, the big factor is BHP, which is really weighing the most on the broader market," he said.

Mr Tao said there have also been some heavy losses in consumer staples sectors, led by horticultural company Costa Group, which nosedived as 38.8 per cent to $4.51, on the back of subdued demand for products including tomatoes, berries and avocados.

"They came out with a weak earnings update, revising their guidance down," he said.

Treasury Wines shares reversed recent gains to fall 4.8 per cent to $14.245, and Coca-Cola Amatil was also down, losing 2.28 per cent to $8.15.

Strong half-year sales guidance for fashion retailer Noni B saw its shares jump 10 per cent to $2.75.

Mr Tao said traders are also cautious waiting for information about the US-China trade negotiations, which have finished.

"We're now waiting for what the outcome will be, whether or not it will be something tangible, or if there will be any type of progress coming out the talks that will give markets inspiration," he said.

Elsewhere in the market, the big banks were higher, with ANZ the biggest gainer, up 0.56 per cent, followed by Westpac, up 0.35 per cent..

In the energy sector Santos was up 0.7 per cent to $5.85, Woodside Petroleum, up 0.66 per cent to $33.37, and Oil Search also climbed, gaining 1.14 per cent to $6.95.

Shares in the other big miner Rio Tinto were subdued, only gaining 0.14 per cent to $80.13, while Fortescue Metals and Bluescope Steel each suffered losses of more than 1.2 per cent.

The Aussie dollar has also jumped against the greenback, buying 71.84 US cents, from 71.55 US cents on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 17 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 5,795.3

* The All Ordinaries was up 15.5 points, or 0.27 per cent, to 5,853.9

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up seven points, or 0.12 per cent, at 5,735

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1615 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.84 US cents, from 71.55 on Wednesday

* 77.54 Japanese yen, from 77.91

* 62.19 euro cents, from 62.43

* 56.19 British pence, from 56.15

* 1.0592 NZ cents, from 1.0591

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1615 AEDT was $US1,295.80 per fine ounce, from $US1,281.95 on Wednesday.