Stocks cap losing week as miners retreat
The Australian share market closed lower on the back of sharply weaker commodity prices and a negative offshore lead amid fresh concerns about the euro zone debt crisis.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 14.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 4,319.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 16.6 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 4,402.3 points.
For the week, the ASX200 lost about 0.35 per cent. The Australian dollar was about 0.9 per cent lower for the week, trading at just over $US1.03. The currency is on course to mark five consecutive weekly declines, its longest losing streak since June 2006 - prior to the global financial crisis.
CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said commentary that the Spanish bond auction overnight was a failure was not quite correct although the news did dent sentiment.
‘‘They got 2.6 billion euros worth of bonds away, naturally at elevated prices, but any country that’s running the sort of deficit they are with an unemployment rate of 23 per cent is going to struggle in sovereign debt markets,’’ Mr McCarthy said.
‘‘Markets have run very hard over the past few months, so it’s only natural that we get a bit of a clear-out and investors remain jittery.’’
He said the fall in commodity prices overnight was as much a product of a higher US dollar as it was a product of global growth concerns.
BHP Billiton was down 30 cents at $34.44 while Rio Tinto backtracked $1.10, or 1.66 per cent, to $65.29.
BC Iron and equal joint venture partner Fortescue Metals Group have extended the life of their Nullagine iron ore mine in Western Australia by 18 months.
BC Iron retreated three cents to $3.07 while Fortescue gave up nine cents, or 1.51 per cent, to $5.86.
In other headlines on Thursday, funeral and cemetery group InvoCare said fewer deaths were affecting its sales revenue in the first few months of 2012.
InvoCare was seven cents softer at $8.02.
Central Petroleum is in talks to attract new joint venture partners for its ambitious helium project in the Northern Territory near the South Australian border.
Central Petroleum was down half a cent, or 4.76 per cent, at 10 cents.
Insurance Australia Group was four cents firmer at $3.51 after it completed its $NZ380 million ($A303.91 million) takeover of New Zealand’s AMI Insurance.
Oil Search said its massive drilling activities in the Gulf of Papua were attracting strong interest from major energy companies seeking to be a part of the project.
Oil Search was up nine cents, or 1.3 per cent, at $7.01.
The big four banks were mixed.
National Australia Bank inched one cent lower to $24.78, Westpac shed seven cents to $22.05, ANZ added three cents to $23.04, and Commonwealth Bank gained 16 cents to $50.06.
The spot gold price in Sydney at 1641 AEST was $US1,624.90 per fine ounce, down $US12.05 from Wednesday’s local close of $US1,636.95.
Newcrest, Australia’s biggest gold miner, gave up 45 cents, or 1.58 per cent, to $28.05.
National turnover was 1.93 billion securities worth $4.05 billion, with 348 stocks up, 637 down and 406 steady.
On the ASX 24 at 1638 AEST, the June share price index futures contract was 14 points lower at 4,335 points, with 30,563 contracts traded.