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Key index slips as investors turn wary

AUSTRALIAN shares went into reverse yesterday, giving back a quarter of Monday's gains, as investors awaited key domestic inflation data and the outcome of tonight's meeting of European leaders on the euro-zone debt crisis.

AUSTRALIAN shares went into reverse yesterday, giving back a quarter of Monday's gains, as investors awaited key domestic inflation data and the outcome of tonight's meeting of European leaders on the euro-zone debt crisis.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index closed down

27.1 points, or 0.64 per cent, at 4227.9.

CommSec market analyst Tom Piotrowski said that despite a strong session in the US overnight, investors had become a little wary.

There had initially been a lot of optimism about the European bailout package, he said.

Early on, people expected a "shock and awe" solution, but that attitude had abated.

"The volatility of the markets continue, but

we're moving in the right direction."

Resource stocks defied the trend because they had been underperforming over recent weeks and were buoyed by news from China's manufacturing sector, Mr Piotrowski said.

Rio Tinto advanced $1, or 1.5 per cent, to $66.63 and BHP Billiton closed up 32?, or 0.9 per cent, at $37.17.

The big four banks all slipped. Commonwealth Bank lost 6? to $48.72, ANZ 16? to $21.55, NAB fell 27? to $24.67 and Westpac 16? to $22.

Pacific Brands dropped 3.5?, or 5.6 per cent, to 59.5? after shareholders rejected the remuneration package for the management of the clothing and linen producer.

Surfing brand Billabong International jumped 31?, or 8.6 per cent, to $3.91 after saying it was on track for strong earnings growth this financial year.

ResMed shares slumped 39?, or 13 per cent, to $2.61, making the stock the worst performer among the top 200. The medical equipment maker said exchange rate movements had caused an 11 per cent fall in first-quarter net profit.

The day's best performer was Mirabela Nickel, which jumped 13?, or 9.5 per cent, to $1.50 after the company reported record sales and production of nickel for the third quarter.

Gold was little changed. At the close, the spot

price was up $US1.80 at $US1655.65 an ounce.

National turnover was 1.84 billion shares worth $4.68 billion, with 15 shares rising for every four that fell.

The Bureau of Statistics

is scheduled to release consumer prices index figures for the September quarter today. A lower than expected reading could prompt the Reserve Bank to cut its cash rate.

The dollar moved up almost half a US cent after trading in a tight range in the run-up to the release of the inflation data.

At the 5pm cutoff, it was at $US1.0456, up from $US1.0416 on Monday. Traders said it had been drifting.


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