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The local share market has fallen in early trade on Monday, following the example set by its US counterparts at the weekend, which fell from record highs in response to tensions between the US and Iran. The ASX 200 retreated from the outset of the session falling by as much as 62 points . Thereafter the market found its footing, although at lunch the Index remained at a deficit of 30 points or 0.45% at lunchtime. Sector losses were widespread, with Energy the sole improver. Financials led the declines with the ANZ, CBA & NAB down by more than 1%, Westpac (WBC) was down by 0.8% or 20 cents at $24.16.

The Energy sector was a conspicuous improver against the backdrop of losses for the remaining sub-indices. This, after global oil prices rose by as much as 3.5% at the weekend, following a US air strike that killed a top Iranian military commander. Growing tensions between the US and Iran raised the prospect of disruptions to oil supplies from the Middle East. As a result the Brent crude price rose by US$2.35 or 3.5% to US$68.60 a barrel, and the US Nymex price rose by US$1.87 or 3.1% to US$63.05 a barrel. Santos (STO), Oilsearch (OSH) and Woodside Petroleum (WPL) were all higher by 1-2% at lunch time. The increased geopolitical tensions also boosted gold prices which pushed miners of the yellow metal higher. Saracen Minerals (SAR) was ahead by 3% or 10 cents at $3.56, Saint Barbara Limited (SBM) was 6 cents or 2.3% better at $2.82.

Heart wrenching scenes of devastation have left Australians stunned at the scale and ferocity of the bushfires ravaging southern NSW and Victoria. Insurance names have been under pressure since the start of November, the trend continued this morning. Insurance Australia Group (IAG) shares were down by 2.3% or 26 cents at $7.43, shares in Suncorp (SUN) were at $12.73 for a loss of 2% or 26 cents. Elsewhere, shares in Bega Cheese (BGA) led the declines in the ASX 200, after the cheesemaker said its facilities had not been damaged, although employees and suppliers had been impacted. A short time ago BGA shares were at $3.92 for a loss of 40 cents or 9%.

Major currencies have been mixed against the US dollar in recent trade. The Aussie dollar held between US69.30 cents and US69.65 cents and was near the US69.50 cents in US trade at the weekend. In early Asian trade the local unit was at US69.43.

Published by  CommSec