Flat US job numbers put sellers to work

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, September 2011 by Jane Lee

Shares closed sharply lower yesterday, extending losses from early trade as last week's disappointing US jobs data continued to take its toll on stocks.

The benchmark S&P /ASX200 index dropped 101 points, or 2.38 per cent, to 4141.9, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 97.3 points, or 2.25 per cent, to 4224.2.

A CommSec analyst, Steven Daghlian, said there were falls in all stocks except for gold. "The price of gold has gained almost 30 per cent over the last six months and that has benefited the sector," he said.

Gold closed in Sydney yesterday at $US1876.15 per ounce, up $US39.05 from Friday's close.

Australia's biggest gold miner, Newcrest Mining, finished 29c higher at $39.39.

Trading volumes were weak yesterday before the Labor Day public holiday in the US.

Wealth Within analyst Janine Cox said speculative traders were taking advantage of investors' fears after negative news from offshore markets. "I think some of the medium- to long-term investors have moved a lot of their money into cash and they're voting with their feet," she said.

The nation's largest rail-freight operator, QR National, closed steady at $3.26 after it struck a deal with eight miners to build a $900 million rail line, the Wiggins Island Rail Project, to carry coal to a new terminal at Gladstone in Queensland.

Lend Lease lost 42c, or 5.1 per cent, to $7.89 despite its subsidiary Baulderstone being awarded a Queensland government contract worth about $115 million to design and build a big intersection upgrade in Brisbane.

Energy stocks were the weakest performers, closing down 3.5 per cent. Santos fell 59c, or 4.9 per cent, to $11.40 while Origin Energy dropped 37c, or 2.7 per cent, to $13.60.

The major banks were also down, with National Australia Bank the weakest performer, losing 74c to $22.77. Commonwealth Bank fell $1.13 to $46.39, Westpac lost 53c to $19.98 and ANZ fell 51c to $19.41.Among miners, BHP Billiton was $1.34 lower at $37.70 after going ex-dividend. Rio Tinto was also down, by $2.26, to $69.79.

Preliminary turnover was 1.8 billion shares for $4.13 billion.  

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