Week of losses calls halt to recent string of gains

The Australian stockmarket closed lower yesterday, also finishing down for the week and ending a run of five weeks of gains.

The Australian stockmarket closed lower yesterday, also finishing down for the week and ending a run of five weeks of gains.

At the close yesterday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 34.7 points, or 0.79 per cent, at 4349.0, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 35.3 points, or 0.8 per cent, at 4376.5.

On the ASX 24, the September share price index futures contract was 36 points lower at 4332 with 21,061 contracts traded.

The sharemarket had dropped 0.4 per cent for the week but was still up 2 per cent in value this month after gaining 3.7 per cent last month.

Concerns about a slowdown in Asian growth have added to some extra selling of stocks, with the iron ore price at its lowest level since December 2009.

Steve Daghlian, a CommSec analyst, also noted comments by the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, that he thought the resource investment boom as a share of economic growth was approaching a peak.

"However that is not necessarily bad because once that ends, actual export of resources shipments will pick up," he said.

Yesterday ended the busiest week of the earnings season, with retailer Woolworths announcing a net profit of $1.82 billion, down 14.5 per cent. Shares fell 48?, or 1.7 per cent to $29.

Fairfax shares took a bath, dropping 11 per cent to a record low 45.5?, on reports Gina Rinehart had tried to sell down her 15 per cent stake. The media company's stock slumped 10 per cent on Thursday when it reported a $2.73 billion full year net loss.

Coalminer Whitehaven posted an improved net profit of $62.5 million for the year but its shares dropped 11.2 per cent to $3.09, with magnate Nathan Tinkler dropping a $5.2 billion takeover bid.

Elsewhere, resources stocks dragged the market lower, which may be because of the iron ore price, with BHP Billiton dropping 32? to $33.09 and Rio Tinto down $2.38, or 4.4 per cent, to $51.80.

Fortescue Metals suffered heavy losses following a downgrade by broker Nomura, losing 26?, or more than 6 per cent, to $3.98.

The major banks were down but not by much, with the Commonwealth Bank down 24? to $54.90, ANZ 23? down at $24.77, Westpac down 12? to $24.65 and the National Australia Bank down 17? to $25.14.

National turnover was below average including 1.64 billion securities traded worth $3.92 billion, with 390 stocks up, 525 down and 340 unchanged.

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