A simple equation added up to the sharemarket losing its pulse for the second consecutive day.
Increased uncertainly about when the US Federal Reserve will start trimming its whopping stimulus offset a rise in metals prices and better-than-expected company earnings.
‘‘The net result: pretty flat,’’ said John Campbell, co-founder of Avoca Investment Management.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished 5 points, 0.1 per cent lower, at 5152.4 points, while the broader All Ordinaries dipped 4.2 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 5136.7 points.
The largest company to report its results today was Coles and Bunnings owner Wesfarmers, which made a $2.26 billion profit in the 2012-13 financial year, up 6 per cent on the previous year.
But that was weaker growth than expected, and its shares dropped 67 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to $41.26.
Rival supermarket owner Woolworths fell 34 cents to $33.27.
The big miners kept the market from falling too far into the red, thanks to a rise in copper and iron ore.
But with index heavyweight BHP Billiton scheduled to report its earnings next week, Mr Campbell said investors weren’t getting too far ahead of themselves.
‘‘Next week has a lot more information than what we’ve had so far, and if the company you are holding is reporting next week, well you a likely to wait until the result before making any concrete decision.’’
BHP advanced 1.2 per cent to $37.33 while rival Rio Tinto shed 0.9 per cent to $61.40 as it traded ex-dividend.
The gold miners enjoyed an increase, following the metal rising to a four-week high.
Spot gold strengthened 0.4 per cent to $US1339.86 an ounce, following tame US inflation pointers indicated that the Federal Reserve may not scale back its commodities-friendly bond buying soon.
Newcrest firmed 1.3 per cent to $12.09, while Regis Resources jumped 3.2 per cent to $3.84.
The health sector was the biggest loser, sliding 2.14 per cent. Blood product maker CSL weighed heavily on the broader market, shedding 3.4 per cent to $63.58, continuing its decline for the second day straight after it forecast slower profit growth in the year ahead.
Telstra also dented the ASX, finishing 0.4 per cent weaker at $5.10.
Nevertheless, RBS Morgans senior client advisor Bill Bishop said the market was holding up well, rebounding from a low of 4632.3 points reached on June 25.
‘‘Broadly it’s been hovering around this 5000 mark. It’s having a little holiday today but it’s done fairly well, considering the federal election is coming, which has continued the air of uncertainly,’’ Mr Bishop said.
‘‘In the background we have got the Americans talking about tapering quantitative easing, which is fair enough. I don’t have a problem with that. They have to start somewhere they can’t go on printing money forever.’’
The big banks, except Commonwealth, finished in positive territory rising between 0.3 and 0.7 per cent. CBA traded flat, dipping 0.04 per cent to $73.76, its second day of losses after it announced investors would not receive an expected special dividend.
Financial services group AMP posted a smaller than expected fall in its underlying profit, and its shares gained 16 cents, or 3.5 per cent, to $4.70.