Another turbulent week with no net gain

STOCKS have again ended a week of volatile trading virtually where they started.

STOCKS have again ended a week of volatile trading virtually where they started.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index kicked off the week with a 2 per cent spurt on Monday in a relief rally after the Greek election, only to have the gains erased by week's end by back-to-back daily losses of about 1 per cent on renewed doubts about the health of the global economy.

CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael McCarthy said the market dipped after a series of weak manufacturing readings from Germany, France and China.

"It was really all about concerns for growth," Mr McCarthy said. "That's why we saw oil markets hit so hard and that's weighed on shares around the globe, including us."

Commodity prices were the main culprits for yesterday's retreat. The biggest drop in oil futures so far this year sent energy stocks down 2 per cent. Oil Search shed 3.5 per cent, while Santos and Woodside both lost about 2.2 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index ended the week at 4048.2, down 39.4 points for the day. For the week, it was just 0.2 per cent lower, and for the month it has lost 0.7 per cent.

Also dragging on confidence this week was the smaller than expected stimulus move by the US Federal Reserve as well as more signs that China's manufacturing has been hit by softer demand at home and abroad.

While most miners also fell yesterday, Fortescue Metals bucked the trend. It rose 12?, or 2.5 per cent, to $4.91 after the company lodged a legal challenge to the federal government's mining tax in the High Court.

Constitutional law expert George Williams told BusinessDay he "wouldn't be surprised to see other parties attempt to join" Fortescue's challenge.

Even so, BHP Billiton lost 68?, or 2.1 per cent. Rio Tinto also slumped, losing 88?, or 1.5 per cent, to $56.02.

Banks fared relatively well despite Moody's ratings cuts to 15 of the world's biggest banks, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, HSBC and Deutsche Bank.

ANZ ended the day down 30? at $21.28, NAB was 3? higher at $23.17, Westpac dropped 23? to $20.73 and Commonwealth fell 9? to $51.69.

Qantas extended its recent slide, losing another 2?, or 1.1 per cent, to $1.12, after BusinessDay reported the company had warned MPs in Canberra about the threat posed if rival Etihad was allowed to buy a large stake in Virgin Australia.

That speculation, however, did not help Virgin yesterday. It dropped another 1.5?, or 3.9 per cent, to 37.5?.

Fairfax Media, owner of The Age also ended the week with a fall, losing 1?, or 1.7 per cent, to 58?. The company capped a tumultuous week, in which it announced big job cuts, with the poaching of a key executive from rival News. Fairfax has appointed Sigrid Kirk as the chief product officer for its Metro Media division. Ms Kirk starts from August after leaving News where she was chief product officer for digital.

National turnover on Friday was 1.7 billion shares worth $3.6 billion, with 288 up, 717 down and 380 unchanged.

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