Aust stocks higher despite energy losses

Big banks and lithium miners have helped push the local share market higher for a third straight day, despite a sell-off in the energy sector.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday finished up 25.2 points to 6958.9, a gain of 0.36 per cent, while the broader All Ordinaries rose 20.9 points to 7150.1, a 0.29 per cent rise.

"Third days (of gains), 10th improvement in 12 days, so we've had a pretty good run in recent weeks," said CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian.

"I think the market improvements today were quite restrained. We only rose by about a third of a per cent, and it's not surprising because of some of the things that are yet to come."

On Wednesday, results from the US mid-term elections overnight should start to filter through, with polls indicating the Republicans are likely to seize control of one or both of the chambers of Congress.

"It's going to be interesting to see how markets respond to this," Mr Daghlian said.

He said divided government could be good for markets, because it means "no surprises, no big-spending initiatives".

The ASX's heavyweight financial sector was doing much of the heavy lifting on Tuesday as several of the big banks bounced back from Monday's losses.

Westpac gained 2.0 per cent to $23.66, CBA rose 1.4 per cent to $104.48, NAB was up 0.7 per cent to $31.95, and ANZ added 0.3 per cent to $24.40.

Lithium miners also gained ground after Macquarie raised its price forecast on the battery metal.

Pilbara Minerals climbed 4.4 per cent to $5.43, Mineral Resources gained 5.0 per cent to $79.11, Allkem added 3.3 per cent to $15.46, and IGO gained 2.5 per cent to $15.67.

Elsewhere in the sector BHP dipped 0.3 per cent to $40.35, and Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals were basically flat, at $96.35 and $16.63 respectively.

The energy sector dropped 2.3 per cent, its worst day in six weeks, after the Australian Workers Union called for price caps on coal burnt for domestic electricity, and action on gas prices.

New Hope dropped 7.8 per cent to $5.95, Whitehaven Coal fell 5.5 per cent to $9.41, and Stanmore Resources fell 2.9 per cent to $2.99.

Santos fell 5.3 per cent to $7.57 after it warned of lower production, while Woodside dipped 1.2 per cent to $38.70.

Back in the material sector, James Hardie Industries plunged 13.7 per cent to a more than two-year low of $28.81 after the wall and floor building products company downgraded guidance, citing a weakening housing market in Europe, the Asia Pacific and North America.

It now expects to make from $US650 million to $US710m, down from the $US730m to $US780m previously forecast.

A2 Milk gained 4.0 per cent to $5.74 as the Kiwi milk company started an on-market share buyback of up to $NZ150m.

The Lottery Corp gained 4.0 per cent to $4.47 as the Tabcorp spin-off held its first annual general meeting in Brisbane.

Chief executive Sue van der Merwe told shareholders group revenue has been up 11 per cent in the four months of the new financial year, with lottery revenue up nine per cent and Keno up 33 per cent.

"It's a healthy result to date and evidence of continued momentum supported by the strategic and deliberate actions we have taken to drive performance across our games," she said.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 64.54 US cents, from 64.29 US cents at Monday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday climbed 25.2 points to 6958.9, a 0.36 per cent gain.

* The broader All Ordinaries rose 20.9 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 7150.1.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.49 US cents, from 64.29 US cents at Monday's close

* 94.68 Japanese yen, from 94.64 yen

* 64.50 euro cents, from 64.64 euro cents

* 56.17 British pence, from 56.74 pence

* 109.03 NZ cents, from 109.08 NZ cents