Market takes fresh hit after release of 'hawkish' Fed minutes
The sharemarket fell for the fourth consecutive session as investors fretted over slightly more hawkish Federal Reserve minutes and sluggish manufacturing data from China.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 19.4 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5288.3, while the broader All Ordinaries lost 20.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5284.3. Local shares and the dollar took a negative lead from the US, where all major equity markets closed lower following the release of minutes from the Fed's October meeting that said it could begin reducing stimulus "in the coming months" if economic conditions improve sufficiently. At the local close, the dollar was buying US92.99¢, down from US93.99¢.
BHP Billiton edged up 1¢ to $37.56, after telling shareholders it expects greater than 7 per cent economic growth in its largest export market China in 2014.
"Everyone assumed BHP would be making less money by now, but it has cut costs while higher than forecast iron ore prices have buoyed revenue, " Perennial Investment Partners chief investment partner Dennison Hambling said.
Rio Tinto added 0.1 per cent to $64.82 as the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, firmed to $US136.40 a tonne.
Ausdrill shed 0.6 per cent to 84¢ as chairman Terence O'Connor used much of his address to shareholders at the annual meeting to defend the fitness of his deputy chairman, former Leighton Holdings chief executive Wal King. Earlier this month the drilling contractor warned it could miss its annual profit forecast by 61 per cent.
WorleyParsons lost another 1.8 per cent to $15.72, after losing a quarter of its market value the day before after telling shareholders to expect a 20 per cent decline in annual net profit this financial year.
All of the big four banks closed lower. Commonwealth Bank was the biggest weight on the market, dropping 0.8 per cent to $76.10. Westpac lost 0.4 per cent to $32.29, while ANZ fell 0.3 per cent to $31.46, and National Australia Bank shed 0.3 per cent to $33.70.
Information technology was the worst-performing sector, down 1.4 per cent, as Computershare lost 1.8 per cent to $10.68.
Gold stocks got smashed as the precious metal's spot price fell overnight. Australia's biggest goldminer, Newcrest Mining, fell 4 per cent to $8.70.