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Australian shares close down 0.78 percent

Australian share prices closed 0.78 per cent lower on Tuesday, as sagging commodities prices dragged down resources stocks.

business Updated: Jan 13, 2009 13:22 IST

Australian share prices closed 0.78 per cent lower on Tuesday, as sagging commodities prices dragged down resources stocks, dealers said.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 dropped 28.7 points to 3,654.6, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 30.1 points to 3,593.9.

Volumes were light, with 909.3 million shares worth 2.3 billion Australian dollars (1.6 billion US) changing hands on provisional figures. 530 stocks were up, 335 down and 260 unchanged.

Poor offshore leads including metal and oil prices took the market almost two percent lower in intraday trade, said IG Markets analyst Ben Potter.

Energy and mining stocks weighed most on the market, with heavy selling in those sectors responsible for most of the falls, he said.

BHP Billiton eased 1.3 per cent to 30.43, while rival Rio Tinto dropped 2.3 per cent to 40.35 after announcing it would suspend a copper and gold mine development due to the financial crisis and falling commodities prices.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals was 3.8 per cent lower at 1.93, with gold miner Lihir down 1.5 per cent to 2.68.

Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum shed 2.6 per cent to 34.77, Oil Search shrank five per cent to 4.42 and Santos was 2.2 per cent lower at 13.78.

Banking stocks were mixed, with Commonwealth Bank up 0.3 per cent to 28.39 and Westpac 0.7 percent higher at 16.55. National Australia Bank lost 1.4 per cent to 20.35, and ANZ Banking Group was 1.5 per cent lower at 14.85.

Retailers also varied, with supermarket giant Woolworths edging up 0.2 per cent to 26.36, while rival Wesfarmers sagged 2.9 per cent to 17.49.

Australia's national airline Qantas lost 1.2 per cent to close at 2.52, with telco Telstra up 2.5 per cent to 3.74.