SYDNEY, AAP – The Australian share market has ended slightly lower despite a late recovery, as investors spied bargains among frontline stocks that have suffered amid cautious sentiment.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended down 9.4 points, or 0.13 per cent, at 7110.8 points on Monday.
The All Ordinaries index fell 4.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7414.2 points.
Only three sectoral indices ended in the green, but the financial sector was the biggest drag on the market after ANZ outlined a soft quarterly update and Magellan Financial said its chairman would take medical leave.
Still, the market managed to recoup most of the heavy losses as investors found bargains among frontline stocks after a 6.0 per cent slide in valuations in January.
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The overall cautious mood follows stronger-than-expected US jobs data on Friday which added to the likelihood of an interest rate increase by the US Federal Reserve in March.
“Perhaps the market is just coming to terms with it (US central bank tightening) a bit more and accepting it as a done deal,” CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian said.
“But I think it’s also important to note that we’re coming off that really rough month in January.”
The tone was set by ANZ’s quarterly trading update.
The lender flagged softer revenue and lower margins in the December quarter amid tough competition in the home loans market. Its shares ended nearly 2.0 per cent lower at $26.57.
Shares in the other Big Four banks also felt the impact, with both CBA and NAB closing in the red, while Westpac managed to recover to end 0.2 per cent higher.
Magellan Financial Group was the other big casualty among financial stocks, sliding 11.2 per cent to $16.43 after Hamish Douglass announced he would step down as chairman, to be replaced by REA Group chairman Hamish McLennan.
Healthcare stocks also retreated heavily, led by a 1.6 per cent drop in biotech giant CSL’s shares. Sonic Healthcare fell 1.1 per cent to $37.95, while Cochlear and ResMed ended down 0.7 per cent each.
Mining shares helped offset some of the losses, with iron ore stalwarts BHP and Fortescue lifting about 1.0 per cent each, and Rio Tinto edging 0.1 per cent higher to $114.69.
Energy stocks were the best performers after crude oil prices hit a seven-year high late on Friday. Both Woodside and Santos climbed more than 1.5 per cent, while Beach Energy rose 2.0 per cent.
Casino operator Star Entertainment slipped 0.2 per cent to $3.55 after flagging a first-half loss and outlining remediation for employees it had underpaid over six years.
Shares in construction materials maker James Hardie were up 2 per cent after it again lifted its annual profit guidance.
Graincorp shares soared more than 12 per cent to $8.10 after the agribusiness firm forecast at least 70 per cent growth in full-year profit.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar lost ground and was left on the defensive following the strong US jobs report on Friday. It was buying 70.85 US cents at 1710 AEDT, compared to 71.39 US cents at Friday’s close.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index ended 9.4 points lower, or 0.13 per cent, at 7110.8 points on Monday.
* The All Ordinaries index edged down 4.7 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 7414.2 points.
* At 1715 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down eight points, or 0.11 per cent, at 7004 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 71.39 US cents, from 71.39 cents on Friday
* 81.69 Japanese yen, from 82.06 yen
* 61.98 Euro cents, from 62.32 cents
* 52.40 British pence, from 52.54 pence
* 107.01 NZ cents, from 107.02 cents.