Australia Markets closed

Aust stocks close slightly in the red

Australian stocks have closed lower, as falls in mining-related sectors cruelled the market's bid to break through the 5,000-point level.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended Monday's local session down 11.8 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 4,959.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended 9.1 points, or 0.18 per cent, lower at 4,980.3 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract finished 16 points weaker at 4,919 points, with 20,145 contracts traded.

The local bourse opened down about 0.1 per cent but edged into positive territory by noon AEDT before slipping back into the red during afternoon trading.

CMC Markets senior trader Tim Waterer said the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index spent much of the day "going through the motions" as investors awaited further direction from the latest corporate earnings results due out later in the week.

"Narrow trading ranges and a general lack of buying conviction resulted in a listless performance from the local bourse, with any ASX200 aspirations of a move to the 5,000 level postponed for the time being," Mr Waterer said in a research note.

The Chinese New Year holiday had also sapped Asian markets of much liquidity, Mr Waterer said.

The standout performer on the market on Monday was JB Hi-Fi, with the electronics retailer soaring 17.08 per cent, or $1.88, to $12.89 after reporting a three per cent rise in first half net profit to $82 million.

Moreover, JB Hi-Fi, which was the best-performing stock on the S&P/ASX200, forecast a seven per cent rise in full year net profit.

"That's an excellent performance by JB in a pretty inclement, overall, retail environment," Lonsec private client adviser Michael Heffernan said.

The consumer discretionary sector rose a market-leading 1.54 per cent on Monday, according to IRESS data.

Among the other retailers, Harvey Norman advanced 5.91 per cent, or 13 cents, to $2.33, Myer jumped 3.09 per cent, or eight cents, to $2.67 and David Jones rose 2.66 per cent, or seven cents, or $2.70.

The materials sector - a large slice of the market - fell 0.48 per cent and gold stocks were down 0.56 per cent.

BHP Billiton slipped 24 cents to $37.71, Rio Tinto closed 15 cents weaker at $69.45 and gold miner Newcrest backpedalled 37 cents to $24.15.

Insurance Australia Group (IAG) said about 14,300 claims related to ex-tropical cyclone Oswald and bushfires in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania could cost the company up to $175 million.

IAG ended down two cents at $5.17.

The spot price of gold in Sydney finished at $US1,668.21 per fine ounce, down $US3.82 from Friday's local close of $US1,672.03 per ounce.

National turnover was 1.35 billion securities worth $3.24 billion, with 477 stocks ending the day up, 483 down and 380 unchanged.