Australian shares were below the 7,000 points level at noon as continuing global concerns about the coronavirus outbreak caused falls in most sectors.
The S&P/ASX200 was down 33.8 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 6,988.8 at midday AEDT on Monday as mining and energy stocks weighed the benchmark index down.
The broader All Ordinaries index fell 38.3 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 7,083.1.
There were falls in most sectors, with only property trusts, telcos and consumer discretionary stocks marginally higher at noon.
JB Hi-Fi was the consumer discretionary star after electronics retailer boosted its interim payout to shareholders thanks to a strong Christmas. Its shares were up $3.73, or 9.3 per cent, to $43.83.
Mining heavyweights BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals and oil and gas giants Woodside and Santos were down amid lower oil and some commodities prices.
The big four banks were also lower but gold stocks and supermarkets giants were in the green.
Woolworths was up 17.5 cents at $42.895 and Coles added 11 cents to $17.01.
Aurizon shares also climbed – up 12.5 cents, or 2.35 per cent, to $5.455 – after the rail freight operator boosted its dividend by 20 per cent following a strong half-year.
Boral stock tumbled 56 cents, or 10.87 per cent to $4.59 after revealing its North American windows business inflated earnings figures to give a false impression of its health and profitability.
Horizon Oil shares also slid on news.
It was 30 per cent lower at 8.4 cents after the Financial Review reported a payment nine years ago in Papua New Guinea was questionable. Horizon swiftly denied any knowledge of wrongdoing relating to the transaction.
The US and European markets fell slightly before they closed for the week on the back of renewed concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus, which has killed more than 900 people in mainland China.
St George Economics says a strong US payrolls report offered only a brief break from virus concerns for markets.
“The death toll from the coronavirus has now exceeded that of SARS,” it said in a research note.
The Australian dollar was buying 66.79 US cents at noon on Monday from 67.17 US cents on Friday.