Investors await Greek election

THE Australian sharemarket has closed lower as nervous investors look ahead to Sunday's elections in Greece.

THE Australian sharemarket has closed lower as nervous investors look ahead to Sunday's elections in Greece.

On Thursday, the S&P/ASX200 index was down 21.6 points, or 0.53 per cent, at 4042.2 points, while the All Ordinaries index fell 21.7 points, or 0.53 per cent, to 4089.8 points.

On the ASX 24, the June share price index futures contract was 22 points weaker at 4044 points, with 32,149 contracts traded.

An analyst at IG Markets, Stan Shamu, said investors were trading cautiously before the Greek elections.

"Europe continues to be a pivotal point," Mr Shamu said.

He said investors feared the Greek elections may have a similar result to the previous one, leaving the country unable to form a government, thereby creating more uncertainty and more instability.

He also said disappointing US data, showing that retail sales fell 0.2 per cent in May and April, had also helped set the negative tone on Thursday.

In the resources sector, BHP Billiton fell 12? to $31.80, while Rio Tinto fell 33? to $54.27.

Shares in Gloucester Coal rose 9? to $7.29 after it said it would pay out more than $95 million in a special dividend to shareholders later this month following court approval of its merger with China's Yancoal company.

The share price of each of the four major banks fell, National Australia Bank by l 9? to $22.06, Westpac by 20? to $20.29, ANZ by 21? to $21.36 and Commonwealth Bank by 5? to $50.57.

Elsewhere in financial services, the wealth manager Perpetual rose $2.15 to $23.79 after media reports said a private equity player may be about to make a takeover offer of about $30 per share.

Fairfax Media fell 1? to 60? after more than $25 million worth of Fairfax shares were bought in one transaction, fuelling speculation that the mining magnate Gina Rinehart is increasing her stake in the company.

The satellite communications firm NewSat rose 1? to 80? after it signed a $30 million deal to provide communications coverage in Afghanistan.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1619.925 per fine ounce, up $US9.23 on Wednesday's close of $US1610.695.

National turnover was 1.48 billion securities, worth $2.9 billion, with 595 stocks down, 366 up and 385 steady.

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