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Aust shares close sharply lower

The Australian share market has closed sharply lower amid a broad sell-off, including heavy losses from the big four banks and health stocks as investors appeared to fret about the US economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index dropped 1.42 per cent to 5,702.8 points on Friday.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said a soft lead from Wall Street overnight and weak US futures on Friday, which indicate that US equities could suffer another sell-off tonight (Australian time) were behind the negative sentiment.

"There's concern about what we saw in the US with earnings from Amazon and Twitter," he said.

"That appears to have weighed right across the region and on top of that, our domestic earnings season kicks off next week."

Amazon reported a 77 per cent slump in quarterly earnings while Twitter reported a five per cent revenue dip for the quarter and a slowdown in subscriber growth.

Adding to uncertainty was the surprise defeat of US President Donald Trump's last-ditch hope to have the Republican-controlled Congress repeal the "Obamacare" healthcare program.

Locally, a pre-reporting season session of consolidation and profit taking has seen the major financials, in particular, fall.

The big four banks were all down, between 1.5 and two per cent, while Macquarie bank shed 2.7 per cent.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both retreated about 1.3 per cent and 1.23 per cent, respectively, but Fortescue was a rare bright spot, with a 3.4 per cent rise.

The healthcare sector also suffered big losses with majors CSL and Ramsay Healthcare both down more than two per cent while medical technology manufacturer Cochlear declined 3.4 per cent.

Among the worst performers was online travel operator Webjet, which tumbled 6.9 per cent to $11.80 after it flagged a dispute with its auditor over a contract with Thomas Cook, which cast a pall over its full-year earnings.

Investors continued to sell shares in Domino's Pizza after the pizza giant's NASDAQ-listed US outpost unveiled weak earnings that triggered a sharp drop in its share price on Wall Street.

While Domino's Australia shares fell 3.2 per cent to $53.34 on Friday.

Building products group Brickworks rose 2.8 per cent to $13.62 after it said it now expects its full-year profit to be double last year's $78.2 million.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar has pulled back since soaring past 80 US cents for the first time in over two years on Thursday.

EasyMarkets chief market strategist Anthony Darvall said the recent US dollar sell-off on diminished expectations for rate hikes in the US was overdone and traders were now jumping back behind the greenback and selling the Aussie.

At 1700 AEST on Friday, the Australian dollar was worth 79.80 US cents, down from 80.37 US cents on Thursday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 82.2 points, or 1.42 per cent, at 5,702.8 points.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 77 points, or 1.32 per cent, at 5,755.2 points.

* The September SPI200 futures contract was down 79 points, or 1.38 per cent, at 5,641 points.

* National turnover was 2.4 billion securities traded worth $7 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST

CURRENCY ASK BID PREVIOUS

AUD/USD 0.7982 0.7978 0.7963

AUD/JPY 88.62 88.55 88.56

AUD/EUR 0.6825 0.6819 0.6819

AUD/NZD 1.067 1.0657 1.0627

AUD/GBP 0.6102 0.6098 0.6094

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,259.09 per fine ounce, from $US1,262.65 per fine ounce on Thursday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.8769pct, from 1.8756pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.6326pct, from 2.6376pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* August 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.315 (implying a yield of 2.685pct), from 97.31 (2.69pct) on Thursday

* August 2017 3-year bond futures contract flat at 98.03 (1.97pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEST previous local session)

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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