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The Australian share market has clawed back some of its earlier losses to close lower with the financial and energy sectors weighing the heaviest.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 15.1 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 5,843.7 at 1630 AEDT on Wednesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 15.6 points, or 0.26 per cent, lower at 5,908.7.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said despite the market lows earlier in the day January is still faring well.

“The market is up about 3.6 per cent for the month and has done pretty well in recovering those earlier losses,” Ms Lee told AAP.

“All together trading volume is still relatively light and won’t be back at normal levels until school and the market returns.”

The big four were all down in the doldrums with National Bank Australia falling 0.33 per cent to $24.51

NAB’s cashless retail sales index for December showed electronic purchases rose just 0.9 per cent from November amid weak spending over Christmas.

ANZ also fell by 0.39 per cent to $25.71 as did Commonwealth Bank down 0.07 per cent to $72.13 and Westpac falling the furthest at 0.58 per cent to $25.60.

Macquarie Group was also down 0.02 per cent to $116.29

Despite fund manager Pinnacle Investment’s expectation of a 25 per cent lift in half-year profit to $10.1 million, stocks fell by 12.35 per cent to $4.40.

Continuing the downward trend, Challenger Financial plummeted 17.12 per cent to $7.65, a three-year low after the retirement fund manager flagged a 97 per cent plunge in first-half profit and cut its full-year guidance.

As a percentage the energy sector performed the worst with Santos and Beach Energy falling between 1.49 and 2.94 per cent.

Also losing ground was Origin Energy down 1.67 per cent to $7.08 while Sundance Energy fell even further at 6.67 per cent to 42 cents.

Shares in car dealer AP Eagers have been making significant gains and are “fascinating” to watch Ms Lee said, with the steady rise of online sales prompting retail companies to buy-up delivery trucks.

The automotive retail group managed to climb up 7.28 per cent to $6.63.

Mining giant BHP extended its previous days’ losses, down 0.43 per cent to $32.63.

Rio Tinto also dipped 0.51 per cent to $79.60, as did South32 down 0.6 per cent to $3.34 and Bluescope Steel lowering 1.88 per cent to $11.98.

The Aussie dollar has lifted slightly buoyed by a rise in the New Zealand dollar, buying 71.38 US cents from 71.36 US cents on Tuesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 15.1 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 5,843.7

* The All Ordinaries was down15.6 points, or 0.26 per cent, lower at 5,908.7

* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down 10 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 5,793.0

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.38 US cents, from 71.36 US on Tuesday

* 78.26 Japanese yen, from 78.08

* 62.81 euro cents, from 62.84

* 55.12 British pence, from 55.44

* 105.25 NZ cents, from 106.12

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1,283.73 per fine ounce, from $US1,277.8 on Tuesday.