Shares finish the year on a negative note

SHARES closed lower on the last trading day of the year, one in which the market fell more than 15 per cent as offshore events strangled investor sentiment.

SHARES closed lower on the last trading day of the year, one in which the market fell more than 15 per cent as offshore events strangled investor sentiment.

The market opened about 0.2 per cent firmer yesterday, after a positive lead from Wall Street. However, stocks turned negative in the afternoon amid low trading volumes.

Jamie Elgar, an adviser at Burrell Stockbroking, said it was a soft finish to the year. "It is a little disappointing considering the lead that we had from Wall Street," Mr Elgar said.

"We seem to be disconnected from what's going on on Wall Street, with everyone looking to what is happening in Europe."

Equity markets around the world have slumped on worries that problems stemming from Europe, where countries including Greece, Italy and Ireland have had difficulty repaying debt, will cause global credit markets to freeze up.

At the end of a shortened session yesterday, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 14.5 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 4056.6. The broader All Ordinaries Index finished down 12.1 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 4111.

Some book squaring among traders was another, though minor, factor for the dip after morning trade, Mr Elgar said. Europe was the "overriding factor at the moment".

"That unfortunately will continue for January and early next year," he said.

BHP Billiton, the biggest listed company on the local market, ended down 8? at $34.42, while Rio Tinto was steady at $60.30.

The big retail banks ended in the red. ANZ was off 12? at $20.53, Commonwealth Bank slipped 11? to $49.22, NAB closed 16? weaker at $23.36 and Westpac fell 15? to $20.

In New York overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1.12 per cent, the S&P 500 rose 1.07 per cent and the Nasdaq index gained 0.92 per cent.

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