Aust stocks open lower

Local market follows Wall Street dip as investors worry about the Syrian crisis.

The Australian stock market has opened lower following a plunge on Wall Street as American investors eye possible military intervention in Syria.

At 1015 AEST official market open, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 0.97% to 5,091.2 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index dropped 0.96% to 5,081.5 points.

IG analyst Evan Lucas said United States Secretary of State John Kerry's comments that the president will hold Syria to account for the use of chemical weapons caused free fall on US markets.

"Defensive instruments look like becoming all the rage over the coming months, and there is a real sense in the markets that investors will catch any spark which ignites the flight to safety," Mr Lucas said.

"Equities globally look set for a very rough ride over the coming months."

Materials weakened, with the major miners in the red.

BHP Billiton fell 1.69% to $35.00, while Rio Tinto lost 1.84% to $58.64.

Fortescue Metals dropped 3.63% to $4.25.

Whitehaven Coal was flat at $2.00 and Newcrest fell 1.38% to $13.55.

In the energy sector, Santos fell 0.88% to $14.57, Oil Search lost 0.72% to $8.27 and Woodside slipped 0.29% to $37.80.

Financials were also lower.

Commonwealth Bank fell 0.82% to $72.87, while ANZ Banking Group lost 0.87% to $29.62.

National Australia Bank dropped 0.83% to $32.39, while Westpac Banking Corporation fell 0.98% to $31.30.

In the insurance sector, QBE fell 1.86% to $15.33, Insurance Australia Group lost 1.03% to $5.77 and Suncorp slid 1.17% to $12.265.

The retail sector mostly fell.

Wesfarmers was flat at $40.05, while Woolworths fell 0.41% to $33.77 after lifting full-year profit and warning of subdued retail conditions.

Myer lost 0.73% to $2.73 while rival David Jones dropped 0.71% to $2.79.

Harvey Norman fell 1.9% to $2.845 and JB Hi-Fi lost 1.89% to $18.67.

In media, Fairfax Media dropped 3.54% to 54.5 cents, while 21st Century Fox lost 1.51% to $35.32.

Ten Network rose 0.81% to 31.25 cents.

Southern Cross Media fell 1.74% to $1.695, while Seven West lost 2.49% to $2.35.

Meanwhile, Qantas dropped 1.76% to $1.2525, while Telstra slid 0.31% to $4.865.

Transfield rose 3.09% to 83.5 cents after swinging to a steep loss but flagging a net profit in the year ahead due to ongoing cost reductions.

AGL rose 1.18% to $14.54 after posting a strong lift in full-year profit and declining to offer formal earnings guidance before its annual general meeting in October.

Charter Hall Group fell 1.61% to $3.67 after tipping earnings growth in the current year and increasing full-year net profit.

Wotif.com Holdings fell 2.58% to $4.90 after reporting a lower full-year net profit and flagging a better financial performance in the year ahead despite a problematic retail environment.

Abacus Property fell 0.89% to $2.22 after lifting net profit and saying demand in the domestic real estate market is ignoring weak fundamentals.

In economic news on Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics is due to release construction work done figures for the June quarter, while Reserve Bank of Australia head of Payments Policy Department, Tony Richards, is speaking at IQPC's The Future of Digital Payments Conference.

Metcash is slated to hold its annual general meeting.

In Australia, the market yesterday closed slightly higher despite concerns about a possible military response to Syria's unrest.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 5.8 points, or 0.11%, at 5,141.2 points.

The broader All Ordinaries index was up 3.7 points, or 0.07%, at 5,130.8 points.

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