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Stocks dip after losses in US and Europe

THE sharemarket closed slightly lower yesterday after energy stocks lost ground and Westpac and Macquarie Group traded without a dividend.

THE sharemarket closed slightly lower yesterday after energy stocks lost ground and Westpac and Macquarie Group traded without a dividend.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index finished down 7.7 points, or 0.18 per cent, at 4273.4, though this was 21 points above its low of the session.

Shaw Stockbroking senior deal Jamie Spiteri said trading activity was subdued and the market had followed Wall Street and European markets lower in response to last week's Group of 20 nations meeting in Cannes.

At the weekend, political leaders in Greece sealed a historic deal to form a national unity government to haul the debt-wracked country, and the euro zone, back from the brink of disaster.

"Markets are reacting to every news headline regarding Europe at the moment," Mr Spiteri said. "At the end, it'll take some fairly committed political action for it all to be executed, and time for it all to be resolved.

"The market is hesitant over how long it will actually take to get a convincing resolution . . . but there are some small steps in the right direction."

Westpac and Macquarie Group went ex-dividend, contributing to the slide

in the benchmark index. Westpac lost 97?, or 4.4 per cent, to $21.11, while Macquarie fell 96?, or 4 per cent to $23.04.

Other big banks put in a mixed performance, with ANZ improving 17?, or

0.8 per cent, to $21.19, and Commonwealth gaining 29?, or 0.6 per cent, to $49.32.

National Australia Bank dipped 1? to $25.18.

BHP Billiton was down 25?, or 0.7 per cent, at $37.70 and Rio Tinto gave up $1.17 or 1.7 per cent, to $68.80.

Oil and energy majors also sank. Woodside Petroleum lost 57?, or 1.6 per cent, to $36.10, Santos fell 7? to $13.05 and Oil Search slipped 5? to $6.38.

Orica was a rare bright spot in the materials sector, gaining $1.11, or 4.6 per cent, to $25.41 after the explosives and mining services supplier reported a 4 per cent rise in underlying full-year profit.

Gold major Newcrest gained 72?, or 2.1 per cent, to $35.72. At the Sydney close, spot gold was up $US7.77 at $US1770.18 an ounce.

Computershare surged $1.14, or 15.6 per cent, to $8.44 after announcing it was free to close the acquisition of the share-owner services business of Bank of New York Mellon.

National turnover was 1.56 billion securities worth $3.74 billion, with 455 stocks up, 511 down and 381 unchanged.

The dollar fell almost half a US cent to $US1.0357 as traders awaited further developments on the resolution to Greece's sovereign debt woes.


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