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The Australian sharemarket is pulling back for the first time since last Wednesday, with the ASX 200 down 0.7 per cent to 6,779.2 ahead of a packed tail end to the week. This is enough to wipe out most of Tuesday’s gains while only just remaining higher for a third week.

US stocks closed mixed after hitting record highs a day earlier. Central banks in the US, UK and Japan are set to hold their monthly meetings on monetary policy in coming days. While the market’s expectations are for rates to remain on hold, any hints from central banker on plans and inflation forecasts will receive plenty of attention. The outcomes of these meeting could affect bonds, shares and currencies.

Losses from mining and energy stocks remain a weight on the local market for a second day. The banks have faded from a better start to trade, which is adding an additional push lower for the ASX 200.

The price of oil fell by 0.9 per cent overnight and has been partly blamed on many European countries pausing the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout due to safety concerns.

Westpac (WBC) has announced it will combined its retail and business divisions from 22 March. WBC said the move could help reduce costs and better utilise common assets such as branches and call centres.

Corporate Travel Management (CTD) managing director Jamie Pherous has sold $31.5m worth of shares in the company, which reduces his stake from 15.2 per cent to 14.1 per cent. Mr Pherous remains CTD’s largest shareholder. CTD shares are down 5 per cent.

Auckland Airport (AIA) said that total passenger volumes decreased by 71 per cent in February versus last year. International passengers fell by 96.9 per cent, transit passengers fell by 96.4 per cent and domestic passengers dropped by 41.4 per cent.

Austal (ASB), Earlypay (EPY) and Inghams (ING) are all trading ex-dividend today. Lendlease (LLC), APA Group (APA), Tabcorp (TAH) and Sandfire (SFR) are all set to pay eligible investors dividends.

3.3bn shares have changed hands so far today worth $2.5bn, with 534 stocks up, 651 down and 398 flat.

Published by CommSec