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Looming US default scares investors

THE sharemarket ended the week on a weak note as investors head into a crucial weekend for financial markets.

THE sharemarket ended the week on a weak note as investors head into a crucial weekend for financial markets.

Negotiations will continue over the coming days after Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives postponed a vote on legislation to avert the threatened August 2 debt default.

"We're basically standing on the edge of an abyss," IG Markets strategist Ben Potter said.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 39.2 points, or 0.88 per cent, to 4424.6, and the broader All Ordinaries was down 38.7 points, or 0.85 per cent, at 4500.5. Both indices were at their lowest since August 31 last year.

All sectors posted falls, reflecting the general unease. "Investors are understandably nervous with a potential default looming early next week," Mr Potter said.

BHP Billiton, which announced a $254 million expansion of its manganese operations in the Northern Territory, lost 61? to $41.42, and Rio Tinto dropped $1.20 to $80.

Origin Energy shed 8? to $14.69, despite posting record full-year production and sales revenues.

Among the banks, Westpac lost 23? to $20.42, Commonwealth Bank dropped 17? to $49.27, NAB shed 18? to $24 and ANZ was 16? weaker at $20.83. Macquarie Group added to its heavy losses on Thursday, falling 42? to $27.57.

Engineering firm WorleyParsons was the worst performer among the top 100 stocks, falling 99?, or 3.47 per cent, to $27.51.

Lynas was the best performer, rising nearly 3 per cent to $2.15.

Asciano, AGL Energy and Foster's all posted gains of between 1 per cent and 2 per cent.

The spot price of gold was $US1613.30 a ounce, down $US1.39.

National turnover was 2.23 billion shares worth $7.5 billion.

ALL ORDS

AUSTRALIA

4500.5

38.7 (0.9%)

HIGH 4543.6

LOW 4496.7

JULY 29 SOURCE: BLOOMBERG


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