Congress impasse leaves Australia at sea

The Australian sharemarket fell in choppy trading, after the United States government partially closed down because Congress failed to agree on a new budget.

The Australian sharemarket fell in choppy trading, after the United States government partially closed down because Congress failed to agree on a new budget.

Several factors were pulling the Australian market in different directions, but the main influence had been developments in the US, Invast Securities senior technical strategist Vito Henjoto said.

"We've had the US government shutting down today. The whole financial market is looking into it," he said.

"The Australian market is largely clueless [on which direction to take].

"A lot of Australian traders are going to be looking at what happens with the Dow Jones tonight."

The White House budget office on Tuesday directed federal agencies to shut down because funding from the US Congress had stopped.

Better than expected Australian retail figures had a positive influence on local shares when they were released late in the morning.

The data showed a 0.4 per cent rise in August.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 12.1 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 5206.8 points. The broader All Ordinaries index lost 11.4 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 5206.3 points.

In the resources sector, BHP Billiton dropped 25¢ to $35.49 and Rio Tinto fell 67¢ to $61.07.

Among the major banks, ANZ added 6¢ to $30.84, Commonwealth Bank rose 14¢ to $71.35, National Australia Bank found 9¢ to $34.41 and Westpac eased 19¢ to $32.54.

In the retail sector, David Jones gained 4¢ to $2.93, Harvey Norman added 7¢ to $3.25, but Myer reversed 5¢ to $2.56.

Leighton was 21¢ higher at $19.46 after it announced several new contracts for construction work.

The Australian dollar has rallied after the Reserve Bank left the cash rate on hold and gave a more upbeat assessment on the state of the economy. At 5pm on Tuesday, the local unit was trading at US94.20¢, up from 93.08¢ on Monday. The Aussie dollar climbed from US93.39¢ to 94¢ and above following the RBA's announcement that the cash rate would remain at the record low of 2.5 per cent.

The price of gold in Sydney was $US1335.10 per fine ounce, down $US5.65 from Monday's closing price of $US1340.75.

National turnover was 1.65 billion securities worth $3.9 billion.

AAP

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