Australia Markets closed

Aust stocks lower, weighed down by miners

Australian stocks finished slightly lower as weakness among the major resources companies outweighed optimism in the US.

At the close on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 6.5 points, or 0.14 per cent lower at 4,717.3, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 4.8 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4,738.1.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 13 points lower at 4,692, with 21,347 contracts traded.

CommSec market analyst Juliette Saly said the local market failed to follow the US as local resources companies struggled following falls on the London Metals Exchange.

"We've again seen very low volumes and not a lot of action on the local market," Ms Saly said.

"What has held us back a little is the big miners."

BHP Billiton fell 10 cents to $37.81 and Rio Tinto dived $1.15 cents to $67.40, but Fortescue gained three cents to $4.89.

"That's always going to impact the overall market."

She said overnight the price of copper fell by about one per cent on the London Metals Exchange while aluminium was off around three per cent.

"There's quite a lot of profit taking occurring."

In the US on Friday the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 43.85 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 13,435.21.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies added 0.7 per cent to close at 6,089.84 points.

In local news the corporate watchdog will investigate if any laws were broken when Whitehaven Coal lost more than $276 million in market value after falling victim to a hoax media release.

Whitehaven stopped trading in its shares shortly before 1300 AEDT for about 10 minutes to confirm the stunt, and its shares recovered all of the losses to be one cent up at $3.50 by 1615 AEDT.

Shares in rare earths miner Lynas rose nine cents to 71 cents after it said it expects to be producing finished products from its controversial plant in Malaysia within weeks.

The four major banks were mixed.

ANZ added 15 cents to $25.41, National Australia Bank was down one cent to $25.30 and Westpac jumped three cents to $26.28.

However, Commonwealth Bank plummeted 65 cents to $62.60.

The spot price of gold in Sydney finished at $US1661.65 per fine ounce, up $US10.40 from Friday's local close of $US1,651.25 per ounce.

National turnover was 1.2 billion shares worth $2.9 billion, with 474 stocks up, 440 down and 360 unchanged.