* Fortescue falls 10%, trades ex-div
* Australian gold sub-index rises 2%
* RBA policy meeting in focus (Updates to close)
Sept 6 (Reuters) – Australian shares were flat on Monday, as cautious investors refrained from placing big bets ahead of a key policy meeting where the central bank is expected to announce its decision on tapering of its pandemic-era asset purchases.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended flat at 7,528.50 points, after having dropped up to 1.1% earlier in the session. The benchmark closed 0.5% higher on Friday.
Gold stocks were up 2% as bullion prices hovered close to a 2-1/2-month peak scaled in the previous session. Heavyweights Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources rose 2.5% and 1.8%, respectively.
Investors remained on the sidelines as uncertainty over the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) policy lingered, with analysts undecided on whether the RBA will put off its tapering plans on Tuesday, said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales, Argonaut.
“A strong rally by aluminum prices following the military coup in Guinea have also pushed the benchmark index higher,” Rooney said.
Special forces soldiers appeared on Sunday to have ousted Guinea’s long-serving president, telling the nation they had dissolved its government and constitution and closed its land and air borders.
Australian bauxite miners climbed on the back of strong aluminium prices, which hit over 10-year high, as the military unrest in major bauxite supplier Guinea raised fears of further supply disruption in the downstream market.
Miners slid 1.1% with Fortescue leading losses in the index, falling 10.9%, followed by De Grey Mining, which slid 6.5%
The energy index was down as much as 1.7% as oil prices fell after world’s top exporter Saudi Arabia slashed crude prices for Asia over the weekend.
Viva Energy was the biggest loser in the energy index and fell 3.1%, followed by Oil Search that ended 2.4% lower.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished the session flat at 13,300.03 points. (Reporting by Tejaswi Marthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)