SYDNEY, AAP – Shares on the Australian market have started the week lower and the ASX200 slipped further below the 7000 points mark it briefly bettered last week.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 23.5 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6971.7 at 1200 AEST.

On Thursday, the index briefly rose to more than 7000 points and closed at its highest level since the coronavirus crash, 6998.8.

The All Ordinaries on Monday was lower by 27.8 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 7224.5 points.

Most sectors were down. The materials sector dropped 0.58 per cent, while energy lost 0.62 per cent.

The smaller sectors of utilities and property lost more than one per cent.

The heavyweight financial sector was little changed.

The ASX’s lag comes despite US markets closing higher on Friday.

Over the weekend, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the US economy was about to start growing much more quickly, though the coronavirus remained a threat.

He said he did not expect the Fed’s benchmark interest rate, currently pegged at nearly zero, would be raised this year.

Data this week is expected to show US inflation jumped in March, while retail sales figures are expected to show a surge in spending.

In Australia, the Morrison government has ditched its coronavirus vaccine timetable after health advice not to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50.

The government has since ordered 20 million more Pfizer doses.

On the ASX, energy provider Santos said it was offering chief executive Kevin Gallagher a $6 million incentive to deliver major projects to 2025.

Mr Gallagher will be given $6 million in shares if he achieves the required results.

The company will give more details at its annual general meeting on Thursday.

Shares were up 0.49 per cent to $7.10.

Crown Casino said Bank of Queensland director Bruce Carter will join its board as a non-executive director.

Mr Carter is chair of the Australian Submarine Corporation and Aventus Capital, and has had leadership roles at other companies.

A series of Crown directors have resigned in recent months after a NSW inquiry found the casino giant allowed money laundering through subsidiaries’ bank accounts.

Shares were lower by 0.98 per cent to $12.08.

In mining, the big three were all down. BHP dropped 0.49 per cent to $46.44, Fortescue lost 1.43 per cent to $20.59 and Rio Tinto shed 0.28 per cent to $115.17.

In banking, ANZ gained 0.43 per cent to $28.86, the Commonwealth dropped 0.32 per cent to $86.85, NAB gained 0.74 per cent to $26.92 and Westpac was up 0.39 per cent to $25.31.

Some travel stocks recovered after being heavily sold on Friday due to the AstraZeneca vaccine setback.

Alliance Aviation rose 2.48 per cent to $4.53 and Corporate Travel Management gained 2.18 per cent to $19.18.

The Australian dollar was buying 76.02 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower from 76.07 US cents at Friday’s close.