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AAP

2012-11-09

The Australian share market closed lower, with negative global headwinds reducing investors' risk appetite.

At the close on Friday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 21.8 points, or 0.49 per cent, at 4,462.0, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 19.7 points, or 0.43 per cent, at 4,482.5.

The market was fairly flat for the week, down only four points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was four points lower at 4,482, with 29,962 contracts traded.

There were weak overseas leads from the US and Europe due to concerns about America's looming "fiscal cliff".

Automatic tax increases and spending cuts are set to take effect in January if the Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a budget deal over the nation's deficit.

Delays in releasing relief funds for debt-ridden Greece also hurt sentiment.

However intraday market lows in Australia and regional markets in Hong Kong and Japan were eased by some positive inflation data out of China, raising hopes of central bank monetary easing there to stimulate the economy.

"There were a number of negative events unfolding across the market today, which left traders looking for defensive plays as opposed to taking on new positions in risk assets," CMC Markets senior trader Tim Waterer told AAP.

"The fiscal cliff concerns in the US, concerns in Europe and the situation there with Greece, banks going ex-dividend here, negative headlines around Origin Energy, but the index still came off lows after the Chinese CPI numbers."

National Australia Bank descended $1.06, or 4.3 per cent, to $23.81 and Westpac weakened 76 cents, or 2.9 per cent, to $25.17 after trading without dividends.

Among the other major banks, ANZ added 19 cents to $24.56 and Commonwealth Bank gained 64 cents to close the week at $58.82.

Shares in Australia's largest electricity retailer and ASX top 20 company, Origin Energy, hit their lowest level since early 2008 amid a profit downgrade and debt worries.

The market wiped more than $650 million from the market capitalisation of Origin, closing down 63 cents, or 5.7 per cent, at $10.42.

Global miner BHP Billiton dropped 21 cents to $34.46, and Rio Tinto sagged 66 cents to $58.69.

Rare earths miner Lynas Corporation was in a trading halt as it prepared to raise capital. Lynas last traded at 80.5 cents.

Among other stocks, stockfeed and salt supplier Ridley Corporation was 1.5 cents lower at $1.115 as it agreed to acquire meat renderer BPL Melbourne (BPL) in Victoria for $77 million.

The price of gold in Sydney closed at $US1,737.02 per fine ounce, up $US18.16 from $US1,718.86 on Thursday.

National turnover was 1.4 billion securities worth $6.7 billion, with 400 stocks down, 492 up and 364 unchanged.

Greg Roberts