THE sharemarket continued its drift lower yesterday, extending its run of losses to three days after Wall Street dropped about 1 per cent overnight on global growth concerns.
The materials and energy sectors were a drag, both losing 1.1 per cent, with the large miners among the biggest losers: BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shed 1.3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.
The general "risk-off" attitude a response to comments from US Federal Reserve officials that the latest stimulus plan in the US might not boost the economy enough saw local healthcare shares gain ground, with CSL doing particularly well, up 83? at $45.14.
Overall, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell 11.3 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 4361.6.
Analysts said it seemed poor global economic data from recent weeks was starting to feed through to global equity markets, with the situation exacerbated by political tensions in Asia.
Japanese shares fell more than 2 per cent ending at their lowest in more than two weeks with China-related shares hit by a territorial spat that has seen Toyota and Nissan cut output in China. Adding to the losses, more than 150 Japanese stocks went ex-dividend.
Chinese shares also dived, with the Shanghai Composite Index ending 1.4 per cent lower, briefly dipping below 2000 points for the first time since January 2009.
"We're down for three sessions in a row and the seven sessions before that we traded in a tight range around 4400 points," Ord Minnett senior analyst Craig Turton said. "The global economy's actually weakened over the last few months, a lot of the current issues are in the hands of politicians in the US and Europe and the bond-buying announcement in Europe has lessened the urgency of the 'recalcitrant' governments to actually do something.
"So trade around the world has been slowing quite rapidly."
Financial stocks dropped 0.2 per cent, while goldminers lost 0.5 per cent. Defensive stocks, such as health and telecoms, bucked the trend, adding 1.5 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.
DuluxGroup fell 4?, or 1.2 per cent, to $3.23 after takeover target Alesco Corporation opened the door for fresh talks over the hostile $210 million bid.
Crown rose 11?, or 1.2 per cent, to $9.10 after it made no changes to its executive pay policy, despite the threat of a board spill in the event of another shareholder backlash.
Incitec Pivot rose 2? to $2.89 after the fertiliser maker put off plans for a new plant in Newcastle.
Nexus Energy remained steady at 12.5? after Seven West Media chief executive and former Woodside boss Don Voelte joined the oil and gas explorer's board.