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Banks, health care drive Aust shares down

The Australian share market has closed lower, dragged down by losses in the banking and health care sectors, while the Aussie dollar had a boost from better-than-expected jobs data and easing US-China trade tensions.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 47.2 points, or 0.76 per cent, at 6,128.7 points on Thursday, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 44 points, or 0.70 per cent, at 6,239.9 points.

Commodity prices rose overnight and Asian markets gained ground following reports the US has invited Chinese officials for a fresh round of trade negotiations.

The news helped the Australian materials sector gain ground in an otherwise depressed market.

But Rakuten Securities Australia chief operating officer Nick Twidale said investor uncertainty and fears of a trade war still remained.

"The US-China situation is massive and the real truth behind it is no one really knows where we're going to end up in six months' time," he said.

"If the tariffs do come through that (US President Donald) Trump's threatening and it goes up to $US450 billion plus, it's unheard of numbers before and no one really knows what the domino effect is going to be on that."

On the ASX, the latest hearings at the banking royal commission struck another blow to the financial sector, weighing down the market further.

The inquiry heard on Wednesday that CBA's insurance business, CommInsure, had rejected a trauma payout to a heart attack victim after using outdated medical definitions that found the heart attack was not severe enough.

CBA, ANZ and NAB all fell more than one per cent, closing at $71.18, $28.06 and $27.30 respectively.

Westpac dropped 0.6 per cent to $27.57.

Drugmaker CSL, which has had a strong year so far marked by record highs and a near 50 per cent jump in prices, was trading 1.5 per cent lower, weighing on the health care sector.

Higher iron ore prices overnight combined with a surprise improvement in the number of jobs created in Australia in August to strengthen the Australian dollar, which was buying 71.87 US cents at 1700 AEST, up from 70.98 on Wednesday.

In the retail sector, department store Myer surged 37.4 per cent to 57 cents a day after posting a $486 million full-year loss.

Woolworths shares fell 3.2 per cent to $27.50 after going ex-dividend.

ON THE ASX:

* The S&P/ASX200 closed down 47.2 points, or 0.76 per cent, at 6,128.7 points

* The All Ordinaries was down 44 points, or 0.70 per cent, at 6,239.9 points

* In futures trading the SPI200 futures index was down 48 points, or 0.78 per cent, at 6,131.0 points at 1630 AEST.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.87 US cents, from 70.98 US cents on Wednesday.

* 80.10 Japanese yen, from 79.18

* 61.83 euro cents, from 61.33

* 55.12 British pence, from 54.61

* 109.65 NZ cents, from 109.14

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,204.45 per fine ounce, down from $US1,192.98 per fine ounce on Wednesday.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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