Following weak leads from Wall Street, the Australian share market dropped at the open but has since managed to claw back some of those early losses and is now down 0.34 per cent at noon. Today the financials space is proving to be the biggest weight on the index so far with losses of about 0.5 per cent in all of the big four banks. The materials space is mixed today with Rio Tinto making some small gains, but the gold miners have suffered after the price of the precious metal dropped overnight.
The S&P/ASX 200 index is 19 points down at 5,460. On the futures market the SPI is 18 points lower.
The Reserve Bank of Australia will meet for its monthly board meeting at 2.30pm this afternoon. Once again, interest rates are tipped to remain on hold at 1.5 per cent.
Neometals Limited (ASX:NMT) and Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further progress the development of a downstream lithium chemical plant in the Eastern Goldfields of WA. Under the plan the partners would use lithium concentrate from their jointly owned Mt Marion Project to produce battery-quality, lithium hydroxide product suitable for use in the production of battery cathodes. Initial work streams under the MOU will commence immediately, with a final investment decision expected by Q3 of 2017. Shares in Neometals are trading up 3.03 per cent at $0.34.
Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT) says it has achieved exceptional results in its Sileach pilot plant run. The pilot plant was fed continuously from 12 to 17 September 2016, treating ore from Lepidolite Hill in Western Australia. The company says the pilot plant consisted of leaching and impurity removal circuits, and that exceptional lithium extraction can be achieved without the need for fine grinding. Shares in Lithium Australia are trading up 5.13 per cent at $0.21.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector is Staples, gaining 0.2 per cent to 9,104. Shares in A2 Milk have risen 2.71 per cent and trading at $1.80. Shares in Wesfarmers and Graincorp are also stronger.
The worst performing sector is Utilities, falling 1.59 per cent to 7,245. Shares in Spark Infrastructure have fallen 3.22 per cent, trading at $2.25. Shares in APA Group and Duet Group are also lower.
Gold and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,311 an ounce.
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.7684.