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After lifting for five of the first six days of the year and hitting a 10-year high in the process, the Aussie market is now on a two-day losing streak. The ASX 200 index is down 0.5 per cent and is being held back partly by losses from the big four banks. Almost all sectors are in negative territory at lunch.
Retail stocks are some of the best performers partly thanks to a report highlighting a much stronger than anticipated lift in spending in November. Retail sales jumped by 1.2 per cent over the month (three times the expected lift). A report Tuesday showed that consumer confidence is up ~5 per cent since mid-December and combined with signs spending was robust over Christmas, should benefit the retailers in coming months.
JB Hi-Fi (JBH) is standing out, up ~5 per cent after receiving a broker upgrade. This is following a strong Christmas trading period and hopes it will be able to compete with recently launched Amazon in Australia.
Rio Tinto (RIO) has received a $500m offer to acquire its aluminium smelter in Northern France. RIO shares are down by ~0.3 per cent.
Transurban (TCL) has been given the okay to extend a toll road in Virginia. The US$565m project is expected to start in early 2019.
McMillan Shakespeare (MMS) is the worst performer, down 4 per cent despite no news on the salary packaging company.
Gold miners are some of the best performers at lunch, with Newcrest Mining (NCM), Evolution (EVN), Northern Star (NST) and Regis Resources (RRL) lifting by as much as 2.8 per cent following a slight rise in gold prices overnight.
US markets eased last night which has been partly blamed on concerns China might slow the amount of US debt (bonds) it purchases. US bond yields (10-year treasuries) are now returning more than stocks on the S&P500 (dividend yields) for the first time since 2008. Keep in mind that US shares only fell by a very modest 0.1 per cent yesterday; this is the first time in 2018 US shares have fallen back and shares are still near record highs.
1.8bn shares have changed hands at lunch, worth $2bn. 456 stocks are up, 576 down and 399 are unchanged. 
Originally published by CommSec