Stocks take breather after five-day rally

THE sharemarket finished lower, pulling back from a week-long rally but closing well above the day's low.

THE sharemarket finished lower, pulling back from a week-long rally but closing well above the day's low.

The market opened weaker, and continued to fall until the early afternoon, following dramatic falls overnight on overseas metals markets and a poor start to the US reporting season.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index closed with a loss of

23.3 points, or 0.55 per cent 4204.3 after being down

60 points.

IG Markets analyst Cameron Peacock said the market was due for a pullback after rallying strongly since Wednesday last week, but he believed it wanted to move higher.

"Throughout the day, I noticed that every time we saw a bit of weakness, we'd gravitate back to the 4200 level," he said.

"That tells me that there is a lot of conviction in the rally which we've seen over the last week. Certainly we've got the catalyst for a sustained rally to year end."

Energy stocks fell the most, down 1.1 per cent, despite oil prices rising for the fifth straight session in New York.

Woodside Petroleum fell 23? to $35.36 while Santos lost 17?, or 1.3 per cent, to $12.49 and Oil Search shed 11? to $5.95.

City Index chief analyst Peter Esho said uranium stocks had helped buoy the materials sector in recent sessions on speculation the industry was consolidating.

He said they were now dragging the sector down after uranium producer Energy Resources Australia announced plans to raise $500 million with the issue of new shares at a big discount. ERA shares were in a trading halt yesterday.

BHP Billiton fell 31? to $37.08. The company has approved $US1.2 billion in pre-commitment capital for the first phase of the Olympic Dam mine expansion in South Australia.

Fellow miner Rio Tinto lost 54? to close at $67.46.

Fortescue Metals dropped 9?, or 1.9 per cent, to $4.72.

Consumer staples and consumer discretionary stocks were among the only sectors to gain ground, rising 0.12 and 0.23 per cent respectively.

Woolworths rose 30? to $24.92.

Consumer electronics chain JB Hi-Fi put on 49?, or 3.5 per cent, to $14.36, recovering some of its earlier losses after telling shareholders at its annual meeting that comparable-store sales for the first quarter of the financial year were down 3.5 per cent on the same period last year.

Tabcorp Holdings was the best performer on the same index, after it reported that first-quarter revenue had risen 2.7 per cent from the same period last year. Its shares jumped 11? to $2.71.

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