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Miners, banks drag ASX lower to end rally

The Australian share market hasn't been able to sustain its four-day rally despite strong retail sales figures, with banks and miners weighing on the bourse.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 20.7 points, or 0.36 per cent, to close at 5774.6 at 1615 on Friday.

That's still a gain of 2.8 per cent for the week and 6.8 per cent since the index's Christmas Eve low.

The broader All Ordinaries was down 19.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, to close at 5834.8.

"There's not a great deal of commitment in the market," said Michael McCarthy, chief market analyst with CMC Markets. The ASX has hit a key resistance point of 5800, he said.

While the market has now made up all of its losses during its bleak month of December, McCarthy said it's still too soon to tell whether there's been a genuine turnaround.

"It does seem like the panic we were seeing weeks ago is continuing to recede," he said.

Utilities, telecom stocks and property trusts were higher while the financial sector and the miners were lower.

The Australian dollar spiked above 72 US cents on the release of better-than-expected November retail trade data, trading at 72.16 cents at 1615.

Australians spent $26.12 billion on retail sales in November, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics data. The 0.4 per cent rise beat market expectations.

The news sent most retailers higher - Adairs gained 5.97 per cent, to $1.775; Lovisa Holdings was up 4.01 per cent, to $6.75; Accent Group gained 4.18 per cent, to $1.245; and JB Hi-Fi moved 2.57 per cent higher, to $21.58.

But Premier Investments, which owns speciality retailers such as children's stationery brand Smiggle, sleepwear designer brand Peter Alexander and Just Jeans, lost 1.55 per cent, to $13.98.

The company is trading near its 10-month lows, weighed by news that US retailer Macy's had sluggish sales in November and December, McCarthy said.

On the New York Stock Exchange, Macy's shares plunged 17.66 per cent, its worst loss in company history.

Treasury Wine Estates jumped 4.25 per cent higher, reversing most of Thursday's losses, after the Melbourne winemaker said its first-half earnings would beat consensus estimates.

It closed at $14.85, up 60.5 cents, up 5.9 per cent for the week.

Costa Group traded up 13 cents, or 2.88 per cent, to $4.64 after a crash on Thursday put Australia's largest fruit and vegetable grower on the radar screen of bargain hunters.

On Thursday Costa shares plummeted 38.81 per cent - from $7.37 to $4.51 - after the company cut its half-year forecast following weaker demand for produce.

Among the miners, BHP was down 1.06 per cent to $32.79 and Rio Tinto slipped 0.6 per cent to $79.65. South32 dropped 0.87 per cent to $3.40.

Fortescue Metals was up, gaining 0.22 per cent to $4.58, but the gold miners weighed heavily as precious metal prices sagged against a stronger US dollar.

Northern Star dropped 2.4 per cent to $9.36 and Evolution was 2.34 per cent lower at $3.75.

It was a better day for telecom stocks, with Telstra gaining 1.38 per cent to $2.93 and Vocus Group up 0.94 per cent to $3.22.

The big banks were all lower, led by Commonwealth, which traded down 1.09 per cent to $71.66.

Qantas was down 2.64 per cent to $5.91.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 20.7 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 5774.6

* The All Ordinaries was down 19.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 5834.8.

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up three points, or 0.05 per cent, at 5731.0

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1615 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.16 US cents, from 71.87 on Thursday

* 78.17 Japanese yen, from 77.93

* 62.60 euro cents, from 62.50

* 56.53 British pence, from 56.36

* 1.0577 NZ cents, from 1.0599

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1615 AEDT was $US1292.62 per fine ounce, from $US1,286.40 on Thursday.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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