A late rally from banking and health care helped lift the Australian share market off a near two-year low but commodity-related stocks and tech shares weighed heavily.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 29 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 5642.8 at 1615 AEDT on Wednesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 0.64 per cent.
The market is yet again flirting with the 5,640 to 5,650 points mark which many analysts view as a floor of resistance, CommSec market analyst James Tao said.
“The area has been a little of resistance for the markets over recent times and it continues to trade just above it,” he told AAP.
Plummeting oil prices – weakened by wider uncertainty in global equities – has decimated local energy stocks, with the sector dropping nearly two-and-a-half per cent.
Beach Energy plummeted 10.7 per cent, Origin and Santos lost 2.6 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively, and Woodside Petroleum and Soul Pattinson were also lower.
Falling energy shares had also contributed to Wall Street’s overnight slump, where trade tensions and a sell-off in technology stocks also caused havoc.
The local tech sector was down 2.8 per cent, with Afterpay losing 5.1 per cent to $10.63, Computershare lost three per cent, while Xero and Wisetech Global fell 2.5 per cent and 2.9 per cent.
Heavyweight materials stocks weighed significantly on Wednesday as metal prices took another hit overnight, with BHP down 3.3 per cent to $31.60 and Rio Tinto down 3.2 per cent to $77.30.
South 32 and BlueScope Steel were down 4.3 per cent and 6.3 per cent.
A strong afternoon from the major banks reversed the financial sectors early losses.
Commonwealth Bank led the gains for the big four lenders, up 1.2 per cent to $70.06, and ANZ the least, up 0.5 per cent to $25.42, while Macquarie lost 1.9 per cent to close at $112.77.
Health care was a consistent bright spot for the bourse as sector giant CSL jumped 1.7 per cent to $178.77, and Sonic Healthcare climbed 4.1 per cent on a stronger earnings report.
Coles shares floated at $12.49 and lifted 26 cents by the close, while Wesfarmers was down 27.7 per cent to $31.96 with the major supermarket no longer in its stable.
Meanwhile, troubled discount retailer The Reject Shop jumped 14 per cent to $2.77 when it received a $78 million takeover bid after it had slashed its profit guidance by 40 per cent in October.
The Australian dollar fought a rearguard action as a rout in global share markets and a new broadside on US-China trade sent investors to safe haven currencies.
The Aussie dollar was down at 72.31 US cents at 1630 AEDT, from 72.76 on Tuesday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed was down 29 points, or 0.51 per cent, at 5642.8
* The All Ordinaries closed down 37.1 points, or 0.64 per cent, at 5722.1
* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down 36 points, or 0.63 per cent, at 5642.0
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 72.31 US cents, from 72.76 US cents cents on Tuesday
* 81.62 Japanese yen, from 81.88
* 63.55 euro cents, from 62.55
* 56.51 British pence, from 56.59
* 106.29 NZ cents, from 106.32
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1,221.13 per fine ounce, up from $US1,222.50 on Tuesday.