Fed uncertainty drags on market but Chinese output a fillip

Australian shares finished lower on Monday, but stemmed some of their losses on the back of strong Chinese economic data.

Australian shares finished lower on Monday, but stemmed some of their losses on the back of strong Chinese economic data.

Australian shares opened 1 per cent lower after a US Federal Reserve official said tapering of economic stimulus could begin in October.

But IG market strategist Chris Weston said the market managed to pare back some early losses in afternoon trade. "More positive action from China has put an upside on some of the materials and energy plays," he said.

"The Chinese equity market is up more than 1 per cent and the HSBC number added further evidence that at least in the short term Chinese growth is firmly stabilising."

China's manufacturing activity expanded in September to a six-month high, a further sign that a rebound in the world's second-largest economy is gaining momentum on improving demand.

It came after St Louis Fed president James Bullard's comments weighed on investor sentiment, only days after US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke had suggested that quantitative easing would continue.

Uncertainty about a US congressional deadlock on raising the debt ceiling also weighed on resources stocks. Mining giant BHP Billiton was down 29¢ to $36.10, Rio Tinto fell 34¢ to $62.57, Fortescue rose 3¢ to $4.59 and goldminer Newcrest was down $1.07, or 8.1 per cent, at $12.03.

The chief executive of Treasury Wine Estates, David Dearie, has resigned immediately after just two years in the job. The company's shares fell 30¢, or 6.3 per cent, to $4.45 on Monday.

Perseus shares were down 10¢, or 15 per cent, at 57¢ after two of the company's founding directors said they would leave in November.

The big banks were mixed, with ANZ adding 10¢ to $31.19 and Westpac adding 5¢ to $32.80, but National Australia Bank was down 3¢ to $34.83, and Commonwealth Bank shed 24¢ to $73.51.

At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was 24.2 points, or 0.46 per cent, lower at 5252.5. The broader All Ordinaries index was down 25 points, or 0.47 per cent, at 5245.8.

The December share price index futures contract was nine points lower at 5260.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1326.07 per fine ounce, down $US35.83 on Friday's closing price of $US1361.90.