Aust stocks sharply lower at noon

Local market sinks more than 1.2% on heightened Syria fears.

The Australian stock market has widened losses to more than 1.2% as the possibility of United States military intervention in Syria spooked investors. 

At 1205 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 1.24% to 5,077.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index dropped 1.23% to 5,067.7 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.

Materials weakened, with the major miners pushing the market into the red.

BHP Billiton fell 1.88% to $34.93, while Rio Tinto lost 2.54% to $58.22.

Fortescue Metals dropped 4.54% to $4.21.

Whitehaven Coal lost 2.12% to $1.9575 and Newcrest fell 1.67% to $13.51.

In the energy sector, Santos fell 1.5% to $14.48, Oil Search lost 1.38% to $8.215 and Woodside slipped 0.79% to $37.61.

Financials were also lower, with the big four banks posting steep losses.

Commonwealth Bank fell 1.33% to $72.49, while ANZ Banking Group lost 1.12% to $29.545.

National Australia Bank dropped 1.26% to $32.25, while Westpac Banking Corporation fell 1.91% to $31.005.

In the insurance sector, QBE fell 1.92% to $15.32, Insurance Australia Group lost 1.54% to $5.74 and Suncorp slid 1.37% to $12.24.

The retail sector was mostly lower.

Wesfarmers fell 0.52% to $39.84, while Woolworths added 0.91% to $34.22, after lifting full-year profit and warning of subdued retail conditions.

Myer lost 1.45% to $2.71 while rival David Jones dropped 0.89% to $2.785.

Harvey Norman fell 1.38% to $2.86 and JB Hi-Fi lost 1.63% to $18.72.

In media, Fairfax Media dropped 2.21% to 55.25 cents, while 21st Century Fox lost 1.67% to $35.26.

Ten Network lost 0.81% to 30.75 cents.

Southern Cross Media fell 0.87% to $1.71, while Seven West lost 3.73% to $2.32.

Meanwhile, Qantas dropped 2.75% to $1.24, while Telstra slid 0.51% to $4.855.

Transfield rose 8.64% to 88 cents after swinging to a steep loss but flagging a net profit in the year ahead due to ongoing cost reductions.

AGL rose 3.17% to $14.825 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 1.47% to $3.675 after tipping earnings growth in the current year and increasing full-year net profit. Holdings fell 4.77% to $4.79 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 0.67% to $2.225 after lifting net profit and saying demand in the domestic real estate market is ignoring weak fundamentals. In Australia, the market yesterday closed slightly higher.

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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