Stocks follow overseas lead down

THE sharemarket has lost ground for the third session in a row following last week's heavy losses on European and US exchanges, and further signs that China's economy is slowing.

THE sharemarket has lost ground for the third session in a row following last week's heavy losses on European and US exchanges, and further signs that China's economy is slowing.

Data showing Chinese inflation in June was softer than expected, at just 2.2 per cent, prompted a selloff of riskier assets.

The metals and mining sector dropped 2.8 per cent while materials stocks lost 2.6 per cent and energy stocks lost 2.1 per cent.

The financial sector fared only slightly better, down just 0.5 per cent, as the big banks slipped.

Defensive stocks bucked the trend, with Telstra hitting its highest level in 3S years, gaining 4? to $3.78.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 39.5 points, or 0.95 per cent, to 4118.3 while the dollar slipped to US101.91? from Friday's close of US102.55?.

Analysts said last week's disappointing US jobs report was the main anchor on the Australian market yesterday. But the China inflation data and last week's stimulus measures by China, the US and UK were also a concern.

"Markets seem to be stuck in a bit of quicksand at the moment, they're not moving," said UBS's George Kanaan. "We had the rate cut out of China last week and from the European Central Bank, but markets did nothing. That was a bit of a shock."

Iluka Resources was the standout performer yesterday, but for the wrong reasons. The mineral sands miner lost 24.1 per cent in value, dropping $2.82 to $8.88 after surprising the market with a sales downgrade, and dire warnings about the global short-term outlook.

After Lend Lease secured $2 billion in funding for its Barangaroo development in Sydney Harbour, fund managers said the market had expected its share price to do better. Lend Lease dipped 1?, closing at $7.46.

Global miner BHP Billiton dropped 61? to $31.48 and Rio Tinto lost $1.26 to $56.54.

The big banks all eased, NAB dipping 11? to $23.67, ANZ 8? to $22.50, Commonwealth 31? to $53.78 and Westpac 14? to $21.60.

Leighton gained 3? to $16.51 after it sold its Thiess Waste Management for $218 million.

Listed investment fund Mirrabooka climbed 8? to $1.89 after its full-year profit rose by 18 per cent.

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