Investors scatter on sliding Wall Street

THE sharemarket finished lower yesterday after sharp losses on Wall Street forced investors to take a breather from the strong run above 4500 last week.

THE sharemarket finished lower yesterday after sharp losses on Wall Street forced investors to take a breather from the strong run above 4500 last week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed down 30.1 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 4541.

The market opened 1 per cent weaker as investors took their cues from Wall Street.

US stocks posted their worst single-day decline since June on Friday night following a series of poor earnings results.

All the major sectors posted losses. Materials stocks weighed heavily on the market, falling 1.2 per cent, goldminers lost 1.3 per cent, health slipped 1.4 per cent and telecoms dropped 1 per cent.

"[The United States] haven't really had a very good kick-off to earnings season so far, with some of the majors there forecasting weaker profit growth than what the market was expecting," BBY institutional dealer Anson Rosewall said.

Mr Rosewall said the losses might have been influenced by overbuying towards the end of last week after the ASX 200 rose above 4500. "That would have caught some traders off guard. They jumped into the market a little too quickly, so the market is probably taking a slight breather."

Resource-related stocks were pushed down on slightly weaker commodity prices following Friday's weak session in the US.

Rio Tinto struggled, finishing down 2.4 per cent at $57.75, while BHP slipped 0.9 per cent to $34.70.

Iron ore miner Fortescue dropped 2.1 per cent and goldminer Newcrest fell 1.3 per cent to $27.14.

Despite a weak day for financials, Mr Rosewall said the market continued to favour the safety of the big banks, especially coming into dividend season next month.

ANZ finished flat at $25.66, Commonwealth Bank slipped 0.3 per cent to $56.67, NAB dropped 0.8 per cent to $26.02 and Westpac fell 0.7 per cent to $25.38.

GrainCorp was the biggest winner yesterday, with its shares surging 39 per cent to $12.30 after the company confirmed a $2.7 billion takeover bid from US agriculture company Archer Daniels Midland.

"There had been some takeover premium in the stock for a number of months now but obviously this bid from Archer Daniels Midland has taken investors by surprise and the stock has reacted positively," Mr Rosewall said.

Analysts said the surging share price suggested some investors were hoping for a higher bid or a rival bid emerging.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1726 an ounce, down $US12.27.

Turnover was 1.6 billion securities worth $3.6 billion, with 391 stocks up, 602 down and 321 unchanged. with AAP

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