The Australian stockmarket has closed lower, led down by energy stocks and the miners, amid jitters ahead of US jobs data and Greek and French elections.
At the local close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 33 points, or 0.75 per cent, at 4396, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 35.1 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 4459.4.
Despite today's losses, the ASX200 still chalked up a gain of 0.8 per cent for the week, mainly thanks a strong showing on Tuesday when the RBA slashed rates by half a percentage point.
Tough day from the outset
This morning, the local market opened about half a per cent lower and remained at those levels up to noon before sliding further into the red late in the session.
Gold and energy stocks posted the largest falls, falling 3.1 per cent and 2.25 per cent respectively. The materials sector slipped 1.1 per cent, while financials lost 0.5 per cent.
Falling stocks outnumbered those that rose by almost two to one, as local investors took their cues from a weak night on Wall Street and softer commodities prices.
‘‘It shaped as a tough day for the Australian market right from the outset, given that declines in commodity prices invariably translate into ASX200 weakness,’’ CMC Markets sales trade Tim Waterer said. ‘‘Across the Asian region today traders had no hesitation in erring on the side of caution.
‘‘Defensive minded trading definitely seemed the order of the day.’’
Focus on US jobs data
Adding to investors' wariness, the US will publish April employment data later tonight and elections will be held in France and Greece over the weekend.
"It is a recipe for sitting on the sidelines," said Patersons Securities dealer Martin Angel. "It's going to take a couple of weeks to settle down a bit. There is in general a massive fear factor out there."
BHP fell 22 cents to $36.03, while Rio Tinto was 74 cents lower at $64.91.Fortescue Metals slid seven cents to $5.53.
Mr Waterer said if the US jobs data proved weak, even more downward pressure would be placed on commodities prices.
Making news, Qantas Airways said it would defer aircraft deliveries in a bid to cut capital expenditure, as well as boost services and frequencies in the Australian domestic market. Qantas fell two cents to $1.605. Rival Virgin Australia was steady at 41 cents.
Westpac leads big banks
Analysts said more defensive counters including banks, telephone companies and supermarkets held up despite the broader weakness.
Westpac said it would cut its standard variable home loan rate by 0.37 percentage points and lower business loans by 0.5 percentage points. Westpac was steady at $22.91.
The other big retail banks closed lower. ANZ slipped 20 cents to $23.44, CBA fell 6 cents to $52.62 and NAB ended 6 cents weaker at $25.14.
Telstra gained 2 cents, or 0.6 per cent, to $3.61.
Consolidated Media Holdings, billionaire James Packer's media company, fell after saying it has had early talks with an unnamed suitor on a possible takeover for the group.
Consolidated Media closed down 1.8 per cent at $3.24.
Preliminary final turnover was 1.8 billion securities worth $4.0 billion, with 353 stocks up, 631 down and 409 unchanged.
BusinessDay, with wires