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Stocks fall in pessimistic wait for US data

AUSTRALIA'S sharemarket dropped into the red yesterday after losing its pulse for much of the week as investors worried about the US economy.

AUSTRALIA'S sharemarket dropped into the red yesterday after losing its pulse for much of the week as investors worried about the US economy.

Buyers were holding back in the run-up to the release last night of US non-farm payroll figures.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 64.6 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 4242.9.

HSBC's head of sales in global markets, Ian Collins, said that "more than anything" the payroll figures would indicate whether the world's biggest economy was slipping into another recession.

He said markets were pricing in a weak number. On Wall Street

yesterday the main indices fell about 1 per cent. The slide spread to Asia, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng the worst performer, falling 350.53 points, or 1.7 per cent, to 20,234.80.

Gold, a barometer of risk

aversion, climbed $US20.42 to $US1837.10 an ounce, while the

dollar, regarded as a risk asset,

dipped US0.06? to $US1.0694.

"At the moment, not only in

Australian equity markets, but

generally, you've got a situation where if you are in the commodity space you will be OK but everywhere else it's probably a pretty depressed outlook," Mr Collins said.

All sectors on the ASX finished in negative territory, with utilities and consumer discretionary losing the most, falling 2.4 per cent and 2 per cent respectively. For the week, the benchmark index was up 42.9 points, or 1 per cent, after moving in a range of 145.8 points.

Fairfax Media, owner of The Age, defied the slump, firming 1?, or 1.2 per cent, to 88?. It was a bounce back from last week's low of 69?.

Other media stocks were not so lucky. News Limited, the titles of which include The Australian and Herald Sun, lost 37?, or 2.3 per cent, to $15.91, while Seven West Media fell 10?, or 2.7 per cent, to $3.55.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton was 83? lower at $39.04 and Rio Tinto was down $1.03 at $72.05.

The big banks also closed down, with ANZ the weakest performer, losing 35?, or 1.7 per cent, to $19.92.

The worst performer was Tabcorp, which dropped 13?, or 4.6 per cent, to $2.70.


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