Westpac leads falls as market waits on RBA

The sharemarket closed lower before the Reserve Bank's November policy meeting, at which the RBA is expected to keep interest rates on hold.

The sharemarket closed lower before the Reserve Bank's November policy meeting, at which the RBA is expected to keep interest rates on hold.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 20.6 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5390.5, while the broader All Ordinaries Index fell 22.3 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5384.2.

Falling equity markets around Asia in the afternoon did not help the local bourse.

Westpac led the falls, dropping 1.2 per cent to $34.16, despite reporting an 8 per cent rise in annual profit to a record $7.1 billion. However, some analysts were disappointed to see further margin compression.

ANZ fell 0.6 per cent to $33.51, while National Australia Bank fell 0.6 per cent to $35.43. Commonwealth Bank bucked the trend, rising 0.4 per cent to $76.10.

A Bureau of Statistics report showed house prices rose 1.9 per cent in the September quarter, adding to a 2.7 per cent gain the previous quarter.

From a year earlier, prices are up by 7.6 per cent, the biggest annual gain in three years.

Exchange-rate sensitive healthcare stocks were the worst-performing sector as CSL fell 0.9 per cent to $68.14. At the local close, the dollar was buying US94.82¢, up from US94.79¢.

According to the Bureau of Statistics data, September retail sales continued a positive trend, rising 0.8 per cent, much stronger than consensus market expectations for a 0.4 per cent rise.

Retailer Harvey Norman rose 1.2 per cent to $3.27, after reporting a 2.7 per cent increase in September quarter sales to $1.37 billion, exceeding analysts' forecasts of about 2 per cent.

But food and beverage retailers were some of the worst-performing stocks. Woolworths fell 1 per cent to $34.54, while Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, fell 0.3 per cent to $42.84.

Coca-Cola Amatil fell 4.7 per cent to $12.28, after the company said it expects full-year earnings to fall by up to 7 per cent due to declining demand, tougher competition and weaker currencies in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Metals and mining was the best-performing sector on Monday, closing flat, as the big producers got a boost from a 2.6 per cent rise in the spot price for iron ore to $US135.30 per tonne.

On the weekend, China's official non-manufacturing purchasing managers' index for October showed an expansion to 56.3 from 55.4 in September.

BHP Billiton fell 1¢ to $37.52, while Rio Tinto added 0.3 per cent to $63.72. Fortescue Metals Group rose 3.1 per cent to $5.32.

Atlas Iron was the best-performing stock, rising 5.4 per cent to $1.07.

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