The share market has lost ground as gains for materials and energy companies were offset by falls in the utilities and property trust sectors, and the Australian dollar has been boosted by strong jobs growth.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 0.2 per cent at 6,011.3 points at 1630 AEDT, with low turnover suggesting traders were holding onto gains ahead of Christmas.
Citi director of equities sales Karen Jorritsma said market sentiment remained cautiously optimistic and shares were largely unaffected by the overnight US rate hike that had been long discussed and well priced in.
“With the market holding through 6,000 points, I’d argue it’s still grinding higher as investors look to lock up profits ahead of a 2018 that’s already been marked by some pretty bullish offshore sentiment,” Ms Jorritsma said.
The big miners were relatively steady, and Fortescue Metals shed 1.7 per cent to $4.76, while South32 gained 3.2 per cent to $3.26 and Independence Group gained 6.5 per cent to $4.28.
Whitehaven Coal added 4.9 per cent to $4.31 and Caltex Australia gained 3.7 per cent to $34.77.
Caltex said it would continue to supply Woolworths service stations after the competition watchdog opposed BP’s Australia’s takeover of the Woolworths petrol business.
Woolworths shares dropped 0.6 per cent to $26.88.
The big four banks were mixed, with Westpac up 0.4 per cent at $31.55, Commonwealth Bank up 0.2 per cent at $80.44, National Australia Bank down 0.4 per cent at $29.82 and ANZ was 0.6 per cent lower at $28.50.
Myer plunged 9.7 per cent to a new record low of 65.5 cents after its sales deteriorated in the first two weeks of December and the company warned its half year profit will be lower than in the same period a year ago.
The Australian dollar hit a high one month high of $US76.75 after November jobs figures showed it was the strongest month for job gains in more than two years.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 10.5 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 6,011.3 points.
* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 6.7 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 6,096.4 points.
* The SPI200 futures contract was down 14 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 6,013 points.
* National turnover was 3.1 billion securities traded worth $7.1 billion.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 76.65 US cents, from 75.75 US cents on Wednesday
* 86.31 Japanese yen, from 85.84 yen
* 64.82 euro cents, from 64.43 euro cents
* 57.07 British pence, from 56.83 pence
* 109.50 NZ cents, from 109.06 NZ cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,258.18 per fine ounce, from $US1,243.95 per fine ounce on Wednesday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.9787pct, from 1.9037pct on Wednesday
* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.5263pct, from 2.4913pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* December 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.4225 (implying a yield of 2.5775pct), from 97.455 (2.545pct) on Wednesday
* December 2017 3-year bond futures contract at 97.91 (2.09pct), from 97.99 (2.01pct).
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)