Australian Shares Close Flat

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Australian Shares Close Flat
Credit: © Reuters.

By Oliver Gray - The S&P/ASX 200 added just 1.8 points on Tuesday, following slight gains of 0.07% in the previous session as a drop in iron ore prices pushed heavyweight miners lower, while Reserve Bank of Australia’s policymakers extended the gradual tapering of bond purchases, forecasting a sharp contraction in economic growth in the September quarter.

In coronavirus news, New South Wales confirmed 1220 cases today with health authorities expecting to reach a peak in cases over the next week as the state’s average for first dose vaccinations lifted to 74%. Victoria reported 246 fresh locally acquired cases, with 90 of those linked to existing outbreaks. Meantime, the ACT added 19 new cases.

Among stocks, mining heavyweights were hit as Iron ore prices dipped overnight, as Rio Tinto Ltd (ASX: RIO ) fell 1.83%, BHP Billiton Ltd (ASX: BHP ) slipped 1.3%, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd (ASX: FMG ) dipped 2.53%. Flight Centre Ltd (ASX: FLT ) added 5.5% on economic reopening hopes, while Bluescope Steel Ltd (ASX: BSL ) and Sonic Healthcare Ltd (ASX: SHL ) fell 2.52% and 2.82% respectively as the companies traded ex-dividend.

In policy news, the RBA maintained official interest rates at their record low level of 0.1% today, confirming it would continue with the plan to reduce to $4 billion from $5 billion its regular weekly purchases of government debt. However, it will extend the program at the lower level until at least mid-February, rather than November as previously announced.

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 extended to fresh 8-month highs, lifting 21.96 points or 0.17% to 13321.99.

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