Market takes hit on US rollback tremors

The sharemarket was at the whims of its global cousins, finishing the week sharply lower as investors continued to digest the US Federal Reserve's plan to roll back monetary stimulus.

The sharemarket was at the whims of its global cousins, finishing the week sharply lower as investors continued to digest the US Federal Reserve's plan to roll back monetary stimulus.

For the week, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 dropped 53 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4738.8, while the broader All Ordinaries lost 51.7 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 4723.8.

On Wednesday in the United States, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke outlined the central bank's plan to pull back its $US85 billion bond-buying program if the world's largest economy continued to show signs of recovery.

An immediate sell-off was triggered on Wall Street, which flowed through to markets around the world.

The Australian market recorded its worst single-day loss in more than a year on Thursday, falling 2.1 per cent. European markets took hits upwards of 3 per cent, which then came full circle back to the US, which shed a further 2.5 per cent.

"The US Fed is looking to turn off the cheap money tap," said JBWere executive director Mike Kendall.

"[Bernanke] was pretty clear and pretty unambiguous on his views on the economic outlook and how he's going to implement the tapering of QE," he said.

While the initial reaction to Mr Bernanke's comments was negative, ultimately it is a signal that the US Fed believes the country is on track for economic recovery.

"People will eventually turn to the fundamentals and look at what the bigger picture is," said Mr Kendall.

"You'd have to say that it is going to be positive for US corporate earnings, so people will buy that earnings story. The problem is they haven't seen it yet."

Locally, all the big banks finished the week lower, with Westpac and Commonwealth Bank each down 1.6 per cent, at $27.72 and $66.06 respectively. ANZ and NAB both lost around 1.5 per cent to end at $27.41 and $28.98.

Mr Bernanke's comments also produced a rally in the US dollar against most major currencies. It ended the week 3.6 per cent higher against the Australian dollar.

With renewed buying in the US dollar, gold prices continued to slump, falling 6.7 per cent for the week to $US1297.37 an ounce. Gold is now down 22.3 per cent for the year.

"The gold price has been doing what it's done for 35 years ... being inversely correlated to the US dollar," said Macquarie Group chief economist Richard Gibbs.

Australian gold miners took massive hits as a result. Silver Lake Resources suffered the worst loss, down 18.6 per cent for the week to 68 cents. Australia's largest gold miner, Newcrest, fell 6.7 per cent to $10.35.

Among other commodity-related stocks, Rio Tinto, which was also weighed down by the Mongolian government delaying the first commercial sales at its Oyu Tolgoi copper mine, lost 2.5 per cent to $52.66. Rival BHP fell 1.4 per cent to $32.45.

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