SYDNEY, AAP – Shares were down one per cent on the Australian market as investors stepped up their selling after troops started trading fire in Ukraine.

All ASX share categories were down on Friday, following world markets lower, after the US warned Russia was preparing to invade its neighbour.

European and US leaders continue to threaten economic sanctions, which has helped send oil prices to their highest levels in more than seven years. Brent crude last traded for $US92.97 per barrel.

ASX utilities shares, which include Origin Energy, had the biggest falls of three per cent.

Technology and healthcare shares were next worst and dropped two per cent.


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Most categories lost less than one per cent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 76.6 points, or 1.04 per cent, to 7219.6 points at 1200 AEDT.

The All Ordinaries index was lower by 78.2 points, or 1.03 per cent, to 7496.6 points.

Earlier the US S&P 500 had its biggest daily percentage drop in two weeks as geopolitical tensions between Washington and Russia flared.

Technology and communication services shares were hardest hit.

In Australia, the nation’s most populous state of NSW eased coronavirus restrictions including the two-metre density limit for indoor venues.

Overseas visitors will be allowed in Australia from Monday.

In earnings news, Magellan Financial Group has overcome recent turmoil to post a higher first-half profit.

The company is offering sweeteners such as options to shareholders who stayed loyal.

Magellan reported net profit rose 24 per cent to $251 million despite losing boss Brett Cairns, a major contract and substantial share price value in the six months to December 31.

Magellan shares were one of the top performers and rose 14 per cent to $21.02.

QBE Insurance has cemented its return to full-year profitability, after earnings suffered during the coronavirus pandemic, and boosted its dividend payout.

QBE reported a net profit of $US750 million ($A1 billion) for calendar 2021, compared with a $US1.5 billion loss in the previous year.

However investors were unconvinced and sent shares lower by 10 per cent to $11.31.

Latitude Group confirmed it will buy the consumer business of buy now, pay later group Humm for $335 million.

The sum includes 150 million Latitude shares and $35 million in cash.

Humm was up five per cent to 90 cents.

Latitude was up less than half a per cent to $2.00.

Origin Energy, which on Thursday declared Australia’s largest coal-fired power station would close three years earlier in 2025, fell seven per cent to $5.72.

The big banks were all lower. NAB fared worst and lost one per cent to $30.49.

Miners had similar struggles. Fortescue continued a terrible week on the ASX and shed two per cent to $19.93. Company shares had already fallen 10 per cent this week, which included the miner reporting lower first-half profit.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.78 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower than 71.82 US cents at Thursday’s close.