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US-China trade worries weigh on ASX

The Australian share market has returned to its downward trend, closing lower on Wednesday after a rare gain a day earlier as US-China trade concerns again weigh on investor confidence.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 3.8 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,175.9 points on Wednesday, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 3.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,283.9 points.

Australian stocks followed in the tracks of Asian markets, which slipped to 14-month lows on Wednesday with investor confidence chilled by the latest round of verbal threats in the intensifying US-China trade conflict.

China told the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Tuesday it wanted to impose $US7 billion a year in sanctions on the United States in retaliation for Washington's non-compliance with a ruling in a dispute over US dumping duties.

Separately, US President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday the United States was taking a tough stance with China.

The trade tension also impacted the Australian dollar, which was at 70.98 US cents at 1700 AEST after falling to 70.85 US cents - its lowest level since February, 2016 - in overnight trade.

Resource stocks retreated on concerns about impact on the Chinese economy, with global miner BHP dipping 0.3 per cent to $31.10 and Rio Tinto falling 0.4 per cent to $71.06.

CommSec chief market analyst Steven Daghlian said the financial sector partnered with the miners to pull the Australian market down due to the royal commission turning its attention to insurers this week.

Major insurers QBE and Suncorp retreated 0.4 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.

Junior insurer Freedom Insurance tumbled 20 per cent to 12 cents after damaging revelations about its high-pressure insurance sales practices at the banking royal commission on Tuesday.

Commonwealth Bank was the only major lender to finish positive, up 0.1 per cent to $71.93, while ANZ suffered the biggest loss, down 0.7 per cent to $28.37.

In companies news, APA Group rallied 1.3 per cent to $9.90 after Australia's competition watchdog gave its nod to Hong Kong's CK Infrastructure Holdings Ltd for a $12.98 billion takeover of the gas pipeline operator.

Shares in retail giant Myer were down two cents, or 4.6 per cent, at 41.5 cents, after the company posted a full-year net loss of $486 million, with underlying net profit falling 52.2 per cent to $32.5 million.

On the ASX:

* The S&P/ASX200 closed down 3.8 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,175.9 points

* The All Ordinaries was down 3.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, at 6,283.9 points

* In futures trading the SPI200 futures index was up two points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,178.0 points at 1630 AEST.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 70.98 US cents, from 71.23 US cents on Tuesday.

* 79.18 Japanese yen, from 79.39

* 61.33 euro cents, from 61.28

* 54.61 British pence, from 54.56

* 109.14 NZ cents, from 108.94

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,192.98 per fine ounce, down from $US1,195.80 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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