Australian shares rebounded from some of their lows in the morning but have still closed lower for the first time in a week.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 18.1 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 6,199.3 points at 1615 AEDT on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 21.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 6,281.4.
“Equities, they’ve had a bit of a damp day really, and haven’t been able to recover,” said Nick Twidale, chief operating officer with Rakuten Securities in Sydney.
Mr Twidale said the markets were in a wait-and-see mode as investors ponder the chances of an end to the US-China trade war at the March 27 summit; Brexit, set for March 29; whether China will announce stimulus measures at the National People’s Congress, underway now in Beijing; and Australia’s 2018 GDP figures, which will be announced on Wednesday.
“We need clarity on data to show us the way forward,” Mr Twidale said. “The markets trading in a confused manner. It’s going to continue to swing in line with sentiment until we get some more data.”
There was a little bit of data to digest on Tuesday, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics announcing that net exports were slightly larger drag on the economy than expected, but a 1.6 per cent increase in government consumption had made up for it.
Also on Wednesday, the Reserve Bank announced it was keeping the official cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent for a 31st month, a move widely expected.
On the ASX, the consumer discretionary sector led losses, and was down 0.85 per cent.
Flight Centre was down 4.33 per cent, Harvey Norman was down 3.68 per cent and Tabcorp was down 1.46 per cent.
Consumer staples led gainers, up 0.91 per cent, with Woolworths up 1.64 per cent and Metcash up 4.87 per cent.
The falls come after the Ai Group’s Performance of Services Index released on Tuesday showed retail trade contracting in February to its lowest level since 2012 as consumer spending dried up.
Elsewhere, among the major miners, BHP was down 0.85 per cent and Rio Tinto was down 0.85 per cent.
The big four banks were mixed, with ANZ down 0.5 per cent, NAB and Westpac flat and Commonwealth up 0.32 per cent.
Telco Telstra closed up 0.96 per cent, while pharma giant CSL was down 0.46 per cent.
The Aussie dollar is buying 70.75 US cents, from 70.91 on Monday.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 18.1 points, or 0.29 per cent, at 6,199.3 points at 1630 AEDT on Tuesday.
* The All Ordinaries was down 21.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 6,281.4.
* At 1630 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was flat at 6180.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 70.78 US cents, from 70.91 US on Monday
* 79.22 Japanese yen, from 79.39
* 62.48 euro cents, from 62.40
* 53.78 British pence, from 53.57
* 104.16 NZ cents, from 104.16
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1630 AEDT was $US1288.22 per fine ounce, from $US1293.83 on Monday.