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Market bucks positive Wall Street lead

THE sharemarket ignored positive overseas leads yesterday to close sharply lower amid renewed concerns about the euro zone debt crisis. By the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 67.9 points, or 1.64 per cent, at 4081.5.

THE sharemarket ignored positive overseas leads yesterday to close sharply lower amid renewed concerns about the euro zone debt crisis. By the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 67.9 points, or 1.64 per cent, at 4081.5.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract fell 62 points to 4093, with 29,673 contracts traded.

The market opened about 1 per cent lower, bucking a positive lead from Wall Street, after concerns about European leaders' decision to delay a vote until next month on an ?8 billion ($A10.8 billion) bailout loan.

Ord Minnett equities consultant Ian Merrick said the US lead had been unconvincing, given how much uncertainty surrounded the implications of a Greek default.

Mr Merrick said local trading volumes had been light, with several investors sitting on the sidelines in anticipation of the US Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee two-day meeting this week, in which a stimulus package could be announced.

National turnover was 1.74 billion shares, changing hands for $3.79 billion.

"Whether they will [launch a fresh stimulus package] we don't know, but the markets are holding their breath," Mr Merrick said.

Losses were across all sectors, with about eight out of every 10 stocks falling. The energy sector took the brunt, falling 2.6 per cent because of weaker commodity prices. Woodside Petroleum closed down 85?, or 2.5 per cent, at $33.40 and Santos ended the day 20?, or 1.75 per cent, weaker at $11.25.

Financial stocks were hit also, tainted by uncertainty about local banks' exposure to euro zone debt risk. The four big retail bank stocks fell, with Commonwealth Bank down 63? at $44.95, Westpac 41? lower at $19.51, ANZ slipped 39? to $19.41 and National Australia Bank lost 42? to $22.44.

Hearing implant maker Cochlear was the best performer on the ASX 100, up 5.7 per cent, or $2.90, to $54.10.

News Corp and Fairfax Media (owner of The Age) were among the few stocks trading in positive territory, with News Corp up 24?, or 1.5 per cent, to $16.20. News Corp non-voting stock was up 37?, or 0.3 per cent, at $16.17. Fairfax was up 0.5?, or 0.6 per cent, at 81.5?.

Gold stocks gained, with the country's biggest miner, Newcrest, up 6?, or 0.2 per cent, at $38.17. Gold closed at $US1823.70 an ounce in Sydney, up $US57.81 from $US1765.89 on Friday.

The worst-performing stock of the top 100 companies on the ASX was Billabong, which fell 25?, or 7.6 per cent, to $3.03 after going ex-dividend.


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