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Crimea poll adds to sharemarket woes

The market fell as international investors grappled with the implications of Sunday's referendum in Crimea that showed local support for moves by Russia to seize control of the region from Ukraine.

Worries about volatility in Europe compound concerns about the strength of China's economy and come before a US Federal Reserve meeting after the local market closes on Wednesday at which the Fed is expected to again cut the value of its monthly asset purchases that have been fuelling global liquidity.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries each lost 0.2 per cent on Monday to 5317.6 and 5335.2 respectively. Profit-taking also weighed on the market, as 27 stocks traded without rights to dividends.

BHP Billiton fell 0.5 per cent to $35.47, while Rio Tinto lost 0.4 per cent to $61.28 and iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group shed 1.4 per cent to $4.91 after the spot price for iron ore, landed in China, fell 1.3 per cent to $US110.10 a tonne.

Australia's biggest oil producer, Woodside Petroleum, shed 0.8 per cent to $38.01 as Brent crude oil weakened 0.3 per cent to $US108.30 a barrel.

Goldmining heavyweight Newcrest Mining added 0.5 per cent to $12.16 as the spot price for the precious metal, considered a haven asset in times of turmoil, edged higher for the fifth session in a row to $US1383.22 an ounce.


Junior goldminer Northern Star Resources was the best-performing stock in the ASX 200, climbing 8.2 per cent to $1.33.

Consumer staples was the worst-performing sector, down 1.1 per cent, with Woolworths the biggest drag on the market, down 0.5 per cent to $35.48, after trading without the rights to its 65ยข-a-share interim dividend. Wesfarmers, owner of Coles, lost 0.2 per cent to $41.78.

Leighton Holdings was another big stock that helped drag the index lower after trading ex-dividend.

In a sign of improving confidence in the domestic economy, Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said he no longer expected the Reserve Bank to lower the official cash rate again and is now tipping a rate rise in the second half of 2015. The RBA will release the minutes of its March meeting, at which the board elected to keep rates at 2.5 per cent, on Tuesday.