The Australian sharemarket struggled to gain traction again after base and precious metal prices fell overnight and the US dollar rallied against most major currencies.
An opening burst of interest in the major banks ahead of Commonwealth Bank's profit report tomorrow briefly lifted the All Ordinaries index above 5000 for the first time since April 2011.
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.4 per cent at the open, but it dropped back to close 0.5 points, or 0.01 per cent, down at 4959 points as investors took the opportunity to book profits in the three other major banks.
The Australian dollar dipped to a four- month low of $US1.0245 as the NAB business conditions index improved 2 points and the confidence index was flat.
"Overall, the survey suggests that the outlook for businesses is gradually improving but business conditions remain tough," forex.com analyst Chris Tedder said.
The US dollar held firm despite comments from US Federal Reserve vice-chairman Janet Yellen that the Fed would take "forceful action" to spur growth and job creation, adding that the Fed could keep rates near zero even if unemployment hit policy targets because they were "thresholds for possible action, not triggers".
Despite indications of the Fed's willingness to keept the "money printing presses" running via quantitative easing, gold and copper both fell 1.1 per cent to $US1645 an ounce and $US8190 a tonne respectively.
Overnight Wall Street closed marginally lower as weakening earnings guidance undermined bullish sentiment.
In Tokyo the Nikkei index leapt another 2.3 per cent following comments from Economic minister that policies should be instituted to see the Nikkei hit 13,000 points.
The yen fell to a low after US Treasury Undersecretary Lael Brainard dismissed fears of a currency war when she said G20 nations must avoid currency devaluations aimed at increasing competitiveness but she supported the effort in Japan to end deflation and "reinvigorate growth".
Last night European stocks were mostly lower, with Spain's IBEX index down 1.2 per cent and Italy's FTSE MIB index down 0.6 per cent as political uncertainty compounded weak economic data.
More to come