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Red ink across the board as sentiment sours

THE sharemarket ended a third straight trading session in the red on fresh concerns about European sovereign debt.

THE sharemarket ended a third straight trading session in the red on fresh concerns about European sovereign debt.

The S&P/ASX200 index closed down 66.4 points, or 1.6 per cent, at 4075.5, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 63.5 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 4160.7. The September share price index futures contract was 72 points lower at 4073.

The market opened lower on a weak lead from European markets as investors were concerned about euro zone debt and the risk of a new recession in leading economies.

A City Index dealer, Jian Wei, said sentiment was weak, with investors reeling from disappointing US jobs data on Friday and the euro zone debt crisis. "Traders are betting the governments or central banks [will] have to take more action to save the ... crisis on financial markets," he said. "The sentiment is still flowing to low-risk, better stocks."

An IG Markets analyst, Ben Potter, said afternoon trade was fairly neutral after the Reserve Bank announced it would leave interest rates steady for the 10th straight month, as expected. "It's a pretty tough environment at the moment," he said. "[The local market] really is being driven by stuff outside of Australia."

Rio Tinto fell $1.38, or 1.98 per cent, to $68.41 after it announced it would sell its 57.7 per cent stake in the South African copper producer Palabora Mining because it was no longer of sufficient scale for the parent company. Fellow miner BHP Billiton was down 82? at $36.88.

Transfield Services was down 2? at $2.26 after it was awarded a $133 million contract to help build the national broadband network.

The major banks were all lower, with National Australia Bank the worst performer, closing 2.77 per cent or 63? down at $22.14. Westpac fell 48? to $19.50, Commonwealth Bank fell 41? to $45.98 and ANZ fell 15? to $19.26.

Seven West Media was the worst performer, closing 5 per cent down at $3.02 after going ex-dividend.

The spot price of gold in Sydney hit a record high at $US1920.44 ($1819) an ounce, before easing to close at $US1918.25, up $US32.25.

Preliminary national turnover was 2.06 billion shares changing hands for $5.11 billion.


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