Aust shares lower, big sectors down | Ralph-Lauren

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Australia’s share market was marginally lower and the big sectors down after mixed results on Wall Street.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 11.7 points, or 0.17 per cent, to 6812.0 at 1200 AEDT on Friday.

The All Ordinaries was lower by 13.2 points, or 0.18 per cent, at 7093.9.

The big sectors, materials and financials, were both down by 0.64 per cent.

Energy had the greatest drop, 2.04 per cent, after oil prices slipped following industry data that showed an increase in US crude inventories.

US markets were muted but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs, propelled by hopes of more pandemic relief under the Biden administration.

The president signed executive orders to establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address vaccine supply shortfalls and require quarantine for international travellers.

In Australia, retail sales data showed a 4.2 per cent drop from November to December.

Melburnians spent heavily in November after emerging from their prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.

Australian Bureau of Statistics’ preliminary retail trade figures for December showed spending dropped $1.33 billion over the month.

On the ASX, miner Lynas Rare Earths jumped 13.49 per cent to $5.55 after signing a deal to build a commercial light rare earths separation plant for the US government.

The plant will give the US a domestic source of separated rare earth materials, used to make defence tools, electronics and electric vehicles.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, which makes respiratory products, was up 5.14 per cent to $32.28 after it said full-year net profit and sales were expected to be higher than previous estimates.

The company said hospital hardware sales were strong due to an influx of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in many parts of the world.

Yet management declined to give earnings guidance due to the uncertain nature of the pandemic.

Market giant CSL rose 2.55 per cent to $275.64.

In mining, Fortescue founder Andrew Forrest outlined a plan for an environmentally-friendly steel plant in Australia.

Mr Forrest said Australia could make steel without coal, by using cleaner means such as hydro-electricity.

Shares were down 0.82 per cent to $24.66.

Among major rivals, BHP dipped 1.42 per cent to $46.35 and Rio Tinto shed 1.6 per cent to $119.92.

All of the big four banks, as well as Bendigo and Bank of Queensland, lost less than one per cent.

Macquarie fared worst of major banks and dipped 1.16 per cent to $137.83.

Earlier in the US, the S&P 500 rose 1.22 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 3,853.07. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 12.37 points, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 31,176.01. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite climbed 73.67 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 13,530.91.

The Aussie dollar was buying 77.60 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower from 77.73 US cents at Thursday’s close.

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