Shares could be set to end a run of seven consecutive sessions of gains on the ASX after investors lamented the slowing progress of economic stimulus talks in the US.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was down 31.2 points, or 0.46 per cent, to 6697.3 at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.
The All Ordinaries dropped 31.4 points, or 0.45 per cent, to 6934.0.
The most notable drags on the indices were from healthcare, which shed 0.97 per cent, and industrials lost 0.75 per cent.
The materials sector lost 0.53 per cent, while financials slipped only 0.02 per cent.
US stocks closed lower after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not deliver the news investors wanted of a government relief package to help the coronavirus-battered economy.
Mr McConnell said Congress was still looking for a path toward agreement on COVID-19 aid.
On the ASX, there were sizeable losses for gold miners after gold prices slipped more than two per cent.
Bell Direct market analyst Jessica Amir said recent optimism for coronavirus vaccines and economic stimulus in the US had caused gold to be sold lower.
The optimism would lead investors to buy riskier assets. Gold is generally viewed as a safe option.
Two of the biggest losers were gold miner Northern Star, down 4.38 per cent to $12.43, and merger partner Saracen Mineral, lower by 4.62 per cent to $4.64.
The Supreme Court of Western Australia on Wednesday ordered the two companies to continue preparations for the merger.
While the losses for the two companies were greater than other gold miners, ASR Wealth senior adviser Ben Le Brun did not think this was due to the legal update.
“There has been a lot of goodwill towards this merger,” he said.
Among the biggest miners, BHP was down 0.21 per cent to $42.64, Rio Tinto shed 0.51 per cent to $114.84 while Fortescue climbed 3.25 per cent to $22.51.
The financials sector was doing better than the rest of the market.
In banking, ANZ lost 0.42 per cent to $23.20, the Commonwealth gained 0.37 per cent to $83.49, NAB climbed 0.49 per cent to $23.55 and Westpac lost 0.34 per cent to $20.00.
One of the biggest improvers was Starpharma, up 13.79 per cent to $1.48.
It reported regulatory progress for its COVID-19 nasal spray, which it aims to make available next year.
One of the biggest losers was information technology firm Appen, down 10.89 per cent to $26.66.
It reported lower sales revenue from customers affected by the pandemic.
In earlier US market results, the S&P 500 dropped 0.8 per cent, or 29.43 points to 3,672.82. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 105.07 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 30,068.81. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 243.82 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 12,338.95.
The Aussie dollar was buying 74.45 US cents at 1200 AEDT, higher from 74.38 US cents at Wednesday’s close.