Resources take the shine off overseas leads

The sharemarket has closed about 0.6 per cent lower amid mixed economic data.

The sharemarket has closed about 0.6 per cent lower amid mixed economic data.

Official figures released on Wednesday showed that Australia's trade deficit had narrowed to $178 million in February, coming in under economists' forecasts of $1 billion.

But new home sales tumbled 5.3 per cent in February, snapping a four-month run of increases.

Lonsec senior client adviser Michael Heffernan said the Australian market had ignored positive leads from US and European markets, but there was no particular factor dragging down the local sharemarket.

"You can't attribute it [the fall] to what's been going on offshore, so it looks like there's something that's domestically impacting the market," he said.

"But there's nothing particularly obvious. Perhaps it's the overhang from the Reserve Bank not cutting interest rates yesterday [Tuesday]."

Mr Heffernan said the resources sector had performed poorly, pulled back by lower commodity prices.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton fell 49¢ to $32.23 and Rio Tinto reversed $1.12 to $55.38.

Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum was off 23¢ at $35.77.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said any delays by Woodside and its partners on a final investment decision on the $40 billion Browse gas project could set the project back many years.

Coal seam gas miner Metgasco dipped 0.6¢ to a record low at 6¢ after it said it had been asked to consider gas projects outside NSW.

Among the major banks, ANZ backtracked 55¢ to $28.27 after it announced its head of international and institutional banking Alex Thursby resigned to take up a new job in the Middle East.

NAB jumped 16¢ to $31.11, Westpac climbed 13¢ to $31.15 and Commonwealth Bank sagged 50¢ to $68.45.

At the close on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 Index was down 27.8 points, or 0.56 per cent, at 4957.7 points.

The broader All Ordinaries Index was down 29.1 points, or 0.58 per cent, at 4966.4 points.

The price of gold in Sydney closed at $US1567.85 per fine ounce, down $US33.81 from $US1601.66 on Tuesday.


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