SYDNEY, AAP – BHP shares dropped more than seven per cent as some of Australia’s biggest stocks traded ex-dividend and took the market lower.

BHP shares traded for $41.81 on Thursday at 1200 AEST, a price not seen since iron ore prices started surging late last year.

Another market giant, biotech CSL, was down almost two per cent to $303.03 having also traded ex-dividend.

Woolworths shares were in the same category and slumped 1.82 per cent to $40.35.

Most industry categories were lower. Only technology and energy made small improvements.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had declined by 77.6 points, or 1.03 per cent, to 7449.5.

The All Ordinaries was down 66.2 points, or 0.84 per cent, to 7746.8.

In US trade, the Nasdaq closed at a record high while the S&P 500 rose and just missed a fresh peak.

There was renewed buying of technology stocks while private payrolls data supported the case for dovish monetary policy.

The jobs data showed private employers hired far fewer workers than expected in August.

Investors are viewing each new data release through the prism of whether it could push the US central bank to taper economic support sooner rather than later.

In Australia, the trade surplus ballooned to a record $12.1 billion in July, buoyed by a five per cent increase in exports.

The rise in exports was partly driven by a seven per cent increase in non-rural goods, notably through strong demand for iron ore from China.

Imports were three per cent higher.

On the ASX, Flight Centre will begin offering corporate travel services in Japan.

The company’s FCM travel management arm will form a joint venture with Tokyo-based NSF Engagement Corporation.

Flight Centre also has businesses in China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia and Singapore.

Shares were up 0.17 per cent to $16.93.

Gas producer Senex has agreed to a four-year deal to supply packaging manufacturer Opal.

Senex will provide natural gas to the Opal site in Sydney at a fixed price.

Shares were down 1.25 per cent to $3.15.

In mining, BHP was not the only major trading lower. Fortescue slipped 0.49 per cent to $20.23. Rio Tinto shed 1.54 per cent to $107.70. BlueScope Steel lost 2.56 per cent to $24.36.

In banking, the big four were all lower. NAB fared worst and lost 0.52 per cent to $28.19.

In technology, software vendor Envirosuite says it will develop a proof of concept project with Western Australia’s Water Corporation.

The company will demonstrate its software, which helps manage odours and corrosion in sewers.

Shares were up 3.12 per cent to 16 cents.

The Australian dollar was buying 73.58 US cents at 1200 AEST, higher than 73.30 US cents at Wednesday’s close.