Aust stocks close slightly lower

The Australian dollar surged after official data showed the consumer price index climbed 2.7% for 2013, beating expectations for 2.5%.

The Australian sharemarket has closed slightly lower following a higher-than-expected rise in inflation and a second-quarter production report from BHP Billiton Ltd that missed analyst expectations.

At the official close of 1615 AEDT the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.22% lower at 5,319.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 0.2% to 5,331.3 points.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showed the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.8% in the December quarter against analyst expectations of a 0.5% rise.

IG market strategist Stan Shamu said the figure took the market by surprise, quashing speculation the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) may cut the official cash rate further.

"While I don’t feel this changes much as far as rates are concerned, it certainly goes a long way towards calming disinflation fears," Mr Shamu said.

"Judging by the price action in the ASX 200, which has dropped today, it seems the market is pricing in a reduced rate cut probability."

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