Aust shares flat as ex-dividend miners dip, banks gain

The local share market has finished just about where it started, with gains by tech and bank stocks balanced by falls of some of Australia's blue-chip mining and healthcare companies as they trade ex-dividend.

The S&P/ASX200 index on Thursday closed up 3.3 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 7,311.1, while the broader All Ordinaries gained 10.5 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 7,514.4.

The mining sector was down 0.9 per cent as BHP, Rio and South32 all traded ex-dividend.

The Big Australian finished down 2.2 per cent to $46.59, Rio Tinto dropped 2.9 per cent to $121.23 and South32 closed down 1.1 per cent to $4.48.

Fortescue Metals, which went ex-dividend on February 26, dipped 0.4 per cent to $22.11.

CSL, Australia's third-largest company by market capitalisation, was also trading ex-dividend.

The blood products giant dropped 2.2 per cent to $290.50.

The tech sector was the biggest gainer, climbing 2.7 per cent at midday, with Xero up 10.7 per cent to a nearly six-month high of $87 after the New Zealand-based cloud accounting firm announced it would cut 700 to 800 jobs, or about 15 per cent of its global workforce.

Xero declined to say how many of its roughly 1,300 Australian staff would be let go.

Weebit Nano was up 10.8 per cent to a decade-high of $8.75, two days after launching its first semiconductor memory product with its partner SkyWater Technology.

In the retail space, Myer soared 18.3 per cent to a five-year high of $1.13 after the department store chain announced a first-half profit of $65 million - its highest in nine years - and declared a special dividend.

"Like all retailers we remain cautious about the macroeconomic environment, however we are pleased with the momentum we are generating through the Customer First Plan and have a strong pipeline of initiatives still to come," chief executive John King said.

Kmart owner Wesfarmers added 0.7 per cent to $50.30 and Harvey Norman added 1.1 per cent to $3.85.

All the big banks were higher, with NAB leading the way with a 1.5 per cent gain to $29.89.

Westpac added 1.2 per cent to $22.38, CBA rose 0.3 per cent to $98.72 and ANZ added 0.7 per cent to $24.49.

The Australian dollar had recovered a bit after plunging to a four-month low against its US counterpart a day earlier. The Aussie was buying 66.11 cents, from 65.91 cents at Wednesday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday up 3.3 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 7,311.1.

* The broader All Ordinaries gained 10.5 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 7,514.4.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 66.11 US cents, from 65.91 US cents at Wednesday's ASX close

* 90.38 Japanese yen, from 90.85 Japanese yen

* 62.62 Euro cents, from 62.56 Euro cents

* 55.73 British pence, from 55.75 pence

* 107.92 NZ cents, from 108.05 NZ cents.