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Market loses energy as profit-takers swoop

SELLERS moved back into the market yesterday, stripping away almost all the gains made on Wednesday.

SELLERS moved back into the market yesterday, stripping away almost all the gains made on Wednesday.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index closed 52.7 points, or

1.22 per cent, lower at 4251.2. Its fall matched losses across Asia.

City Index chief markets analyst Peter Esho said energy stocks pulled the benchmark down from early in the session.

"Overall, the market has recovered over the past two weeks and it's now just a period of consolidating its gains," he said.

"All the large key industrial companies that have commenced reporting since the beginning of last week have broadly met market expectations. I think the market finds comfort in that there's no single problematic area or systemic issue of earnings falling across the economy."

BBY institutional dealer Stuart Smith said fewer investors were trading because of the uncertain outlook arising from the possibility of a recession again developing in the US and Europe.

"People are looking to see, is Europe going to melt down? Don't know. Is America going to pick up? Not sure," he said.

"That's the type of market [we're in], where no one knows what to do now and Australia seems to be waiting for a bit of a leap from overseas before it moves on."

Among energy stocks, Oil Search was down 15? at $6.33, Santos was off 46? at $11.68 and Woodside Petroleum was 89? weaker at $36.87.

Wealth manager AMP closed up 11? at $4.26 despite an 18 per cent fall in first-half profit to $349 million.

Shares in Coles owner Wesfarmers rose 11? to $30.41 after the company reported a positive outlook and a 23 per cent rise in full-year profit.

APN News & Media shares sold off heavily after the diversified publishing house booked a large impairment charge against its New Zealand newspapers and reported a first-half loss. APN finished down 11?, or 12.4 per cent, at 78?.

BHP Billiton lost 72? to $39.10 and Rio Tinto was $1.08 lower at $73.34.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals was 19? weaker at $6.05.

Shares in Foster's Group, which has again rejected a $9.51 billion takeover bid from SABMiller, were up 4? at $5.

Among the banks, Westpac was 13? lower at $20.38, National Australia Bank was 20? lower at $23.16, ANZ fell 16? to $20.42 and Commonwealth lost 8? to $47.32.

The spot gold price was up $US6.95 at $US1794.10 an ounce at the close.. Newcrest slipped 43? to $38.66.

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