On a day relatively lacking in big-ticket corporate or economic news, investors were free to concentrate on a Fairfax investigation into retirement village operator Aveo Group.
After an early bounce, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index quickly reversed the bulk of those gains to end the session up 4 points to 5720.2. The broader All Ordinaries index was also flat.
The big four banks ended the session mixed. The Commonwealth Bank edged up 0.4 per cent, the biggest support to the index, while ANZ rose 0.3 per cent. But NAB was the single-biggest drag on the index after falling 0.5 per cent, while Westpac was also in the red, down 0.3 per cent.
“The positive momentum we saw this morning proved to be short-lived,” said Gary Huxtable, client adviser at Atlantic Pacific Securities.
“Investors in three of the big four banks took the opportunity to sell into the initial buying pressure, while QBE continues to weigh on the index as the market loses faith in the company’s management.”
The insurer extended its falls after its profit downgrade last week, shedding a further 2.2 per cent. QBE has now lost 13.6 per cent of its market value since last Wednesday.
The standout performer for the session was grocery wholesaler Metcash, which jumped 5 per cent after it released better-than-expected annual profit numbers and announced it would be resuming dividend payments.