The Australian share market weakened as caution ahead of the release of key US inflation data outweighed better than expected earnings reports from several companies.
After gaining ground in early trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed 0.25 per cent lower at 5,841.2 points.
The healthcare sector was a rare bright spot, as most other sectors lost ground.
That was due to biotech giant CSL’s 5.1 per cent gain to $149.29, as its half-year profit growth beat expectations, driven by strong flu vaccine sales.
CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said investors were holding back ahead of the latest US consumer price index data, which is critical to the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decisions.
“One of the things which has driven the recent downdraft in markets is concern about rising bond yields and inflation in the US,” he said.
“If we were to see inflation starting to rise or rising more than expected in tonight’s data that could be a negative event for markets.”
Commonwealth Bank was the biggest weight on the local market, down three per cent as it traded ex-dividend.
The other banks were mixed, with National Australia Bank up 0.4 per cent, Westpac down 0.1 per cent and ANZ 0.3 per cent weaker.
The big miners were also relatively steady, with BHP Billiton up 0.4 per cent and Rio Tinto almost unchanged.
Domino’s Pizza dropped 6.1 per cent after it lowered its full year sales growth forecast for its Australian and New Zealand stores.
Insurance Australia Group gained 3.2 per cent as higher insurance premiums contributed to a 24 per cent rise in its half year profit.
Computershare jumped 4.9 per cent after its half year profit grew 14 per cent.
The Australian dollar edged higher against the US dollar to be at 78.77 US cents at the close of local trade.
“The move is about US weakness rather than Aussie dollar strength,” Mr Spooner said, noting the greenback was also weaker several Asian currencies, including the Yen.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 14.7 points, or 0 25 per cent, at 5,841.2 points.
* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 17 points, 0.29 per cent, at 5,940 points.
* The SPI200 futures contract was down three points, or 0.05 per cent, at 5,790 points.
* National turnover was 2.8 billion securities traded worth $6.1 billion.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 78.77 US cents, from 78.64 US cents on Tuesday
* 84.42 Japanese yen, from 85.17 yen
* 63.64 euro cents, from 63.85 euro cents
* 56.66 British pence, from 56.76 pence
* 107.74 NZ cents, from 108.26 NZ cents
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEDT was $US1,334.89 per fine ounce, from $US1,326.45 per fine ounce on Tuesday.
BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.9836pct, from 1.9828pct on Tuesday
* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.7996pct, from 2.8228pct
Sydney Futures Exchange prices:
* March 2018 10-year bond futures contract at 97.155 (implying a yield of 2.845pct), from 97.13 (implying a yield of 2.87pct) on Tuesday
* March 2018 3-year bond futures contract at 97.87 (2.13pct), from 97.86 (2.14pct).
(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEDT previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEDT previous local session)