Market set to dip from near record highs

Australian shares are expected to start the week below the near-record highs seen last week as investors tread carefully.

On Friday the S&P/ASX 200 finished the week at 7130.2, just shy of January's all-time record of 7132.7, but S&P ASX Futures suggest the index will fall 17 points at opening.

The local sharemarket is expected to start the week lower after near-record highs on Friday. Credit:AAP

CommSec chief economist Craig James said Monday's expected weaker start is likely due to investors playing it safe.

"Investors do get a little bit cautious, when you're at these fairly lofty levels," he told AAP on Sunday.

"You're always looking for the environment to confirm whether the valuations are fair or not."

The US market will be closed for the Presidents' Day public holiday on Monday but Friday trading saw some indices advance. The S&P 500 hit an all-time high of 3,380.16, while the Nasdaq also closed at a record 9,731.18.

US investors had been treating the coronavirus threat with caution, analysts said, though a CNBC report suggesting that the Trump administration could introduce a tax incentive for people earning less than $US200,000 to invest up to $US10,000 in US stocks gave the markets a late boost.

Week three of company interim reporting season will see some of the nation's largest brands in retail, gaming and mining reveal their half-year results and any impacts of coronavirus on business.

Reporting will kick off with a 2019 full-year result from QBE Insurance, while BHP, Cochlear, Coles and Crown Resorts will also report this week.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will release the wage price index for the fourth quarter of 2019 on Wednesday, with economics expecting it will show wages growth sticking at 0.5 per cent.

Labour force data for January is also coming on Thursday, with economists expecting the unemployment rate to creep up slightly from 5.1 per cent to 5.2 per cent.

with AAP

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