Banks, healthcare lead market fall

The sharemarket closed lower before the Reserve Bank's Tuesday policy meeting, at which it is expected to keep interest rates on hold. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 20.6 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5390.5, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 22.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5384.2.

The sharemarket closed lower before the Reserve Bank's Tuesday policy meeting, at which it is expected to keep interest rates on hold. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 20.6 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5390.5, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 22.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5384.2.

Westpac led the fall, dropping 1.2 per cent to $34.16 after reporting an 8 per cent rise in annual profit to a record $7.1 billion. ANZ fell 0.6 per cent to $33.51, while National Australia Bank lost 0.6 per cent to $35.43. Commonwealth Bank bucked the trend, rising 0.4 per cent to $76.10.

An Australian Bureau of Statistics report showed house prices jumped 1.9 per cent in the September quarter, adding to a 2.7 per cent gain the previous quarter. From a year earlier, prices are up by 7.6 per cent.

Exchange rate-sensitive healthcare stocks were the worst-performing sector as plasma maker CSL dropped 0.9 per cent to $68.14.

At the local close, the dollar was buying US94.82¢, up from US94.79¢ on Friday.

According to ABS data, September retail sales continued a positive trend, picking up a solid 0.8 per cent, much stronger than consensus market expectations for a 0.4 per cent rise.

Clothing, household and entertainment retailers were among the best-performing stocks, led by David Jones, up 4.5 per cent at $3.03. Myer added 2.4 per cent at $2.56, and JB Hi-Fi gained 1.7 per cent to $21.58.

Harvey Norman jumped 1.2 per cent to $3.27 after reporting a 2.7 per cent increase in September-quarter sales to $1.37 billion. But food and beverage retailers were some of the worst-performing stocks. Woolworths lost 1 per cent at $34.54, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, shed 0.3 per cent at $42.84.

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