Aust stocks close lower

Local market falls as QBE plummets after flagging a $US250 million full-year loss, Chinese inflation misses expectations.

The Australian stock market closed weaker after QBE Insurance Group Ltd plummeted on flagging a full-year loss due to goodwill write-downs in its North American business.

At the 1615 AEDT official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 0.8% lower at 5,144.4 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 0.73% to 5,148.4 points.

IG analyst Stan Shamu said QBE was the biggest story of the day after its shares fell over 21% as it emerged from a trading halt to warn of a profit downgrade.

QBE flagged a $US250 million full-year loss on goodwill write-downs and expects its cash net profit after tax to be around $US850 million, lower than the $US1.04 billion it posted in 2012.

"The insurer has missed analyst estimates since 2009 and this is its third earnings downgrade in a year," Mr Shamu said.

"Confidence has certainly been rattled, and while it is tempting to take advantage of today's share price drop, I am strongly against attempting to catch a falling knife.

"I would expect to see follow-through selling for QBE again tomorrow. It is always a smarter move to wait for significant price stability before accumulating stocks that have experienced a violent sell-off."

Meanwhile, Chinese inflation printed at three% compared with a year earlier in November, slightly below expectations.

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