SYDNEY, AAP – ASX investors appeared to be in a cautious mood ahead of a keenly anticipated talk from the US Federal Reserve chair.

Shares were down a little prior to Fed Chair Jerome Powell discussing monetary policy, and the possible easing of economic support, as part of the annual Jackson Hole symposium.

Consumer discretionary shares had the greatest fall, 1.69 per cent.

Information technology stocks declined by almost as much.

The best performing shares were in healthcare. Market giant CSL gained 1.12 per cent to $311.57.

The big miners were a little better while the banks were mixed.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was lower by 8.4 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 7482.8 at 1200 AEST.

The All Ordinaries was down 14.6 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 7755.8.

US markets provided a lower lead following suicide attacks at Kabul airport in Afghanistan which killed more than 60 civilians and 13 US military personnel.

Stock losses were widespread in US trade. Ten of the 11 sectors in the S&P 500 closed lower.

Stocks had been moving lower before the bombings. Selling accelerated on news of the attacks.

In Australia, retail turnover has taken its largest dive for the year, falling 2.7 per cent in July.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Ben James said lockdowns and stay-at-home orders continued to impact retail sales.

Meanwhile, Queenslanders will be allowed greater gatherings after 20 days since a coronavirus infection in the community. This applies to venues including cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs.

NSW leaders have plotted a return to school for students from October despite recording 882 infections in the past 24 hours.

On the ASX, Wesfarmers’ leaders say lockdown impacts are mounting on staff and the company will pay a “material” cost to compensate thousands unable to work due to COVID-19.

The Bunnings and Officeworks operator vowed to keep paying wages to workers sidelined by COVID measures until at least December 31 and revealed shareholders could receive $2 billion under a proposed return of capital.

Shares were down 3.06 per cent to $62.00.

Former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski has been named Crown Resorts’ new chair, replacing Helen Coonan after the punishing Victorian royal commission and NSW gaming inquiry.

The James Packer-backed group said Ms Coonan would on Friday retire from both the board and her role as Crown chair.

Dr Switkowski is currently chancellor of RMIT University.

Crown shares were up 1.29 per cent to $9.42.

Mayne Pharma shares dropped 7.62 per cent to 27 cents after reporting a bigger full-year loss.

Boss Scott Richards said earnings were down due to a weakened US dollar and COVID-19 challenges.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.32 US cents at 1200 AEST, lower than 72.64 US cents at Thursday’s close.