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Aust share market closes lower

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AAP

2012-11-13

The Australian share market has closed sharply lower after its biggest one-day fall in four months.

Investors fretted over the ongoing bailout of Greece and negotiations in the US to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff" that threatens to derail the wider world economy.

On Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 68.2 points, or 1.53 per cent, at 4,379.8 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 65.7 points, or 1.47 per cent, to 4,404.2 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 68 points lower at 4,389 points, on a volume of 34,648 contracts.

It was the biggest one-day fall on the S&P/ASX200 index since July 23 when the index fell 1.69 per cent.

Stocks fell as European finance ministers delayed approval of the next instalment of a massive bailout loan for debt-ridden Greece.

European finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday gave Greece until 2016 to reduce its deficit and restructure its economy but postponed approval of the next instalment of a bailout loan.

The fiscal cliff in the US refers to government spending cuts and tax increases that are scheduled to start in the new year, unless a divided Congress and the White House can work out a compromise beforehand.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said the Australian share market experienced selling across all sectors on Tuesday.

He said the sell-off had gained momentum during the session.

Investors were waiting to see if there would be an interest rate cut in Australia in December, and some recent bad corporate news on the local front added to a general air of uncertainty.

Among the major banks, ANZ was off 40 cents at $24.05, National Australia descended 53 cents to $23.11, Westpac dumped 55 cents at $24.80, and Commonwealth Bank surrendered 70 cents to $58.70.

Elsewhere in the financial services sector, global insurer QBE was 88 cents, or 7.46 per cent, lower at $10.92 following several broker downgrades and speculation that a capital raising that the company was undertaking would be insufficient, Mr Le Brun.

QBE shares have fallen sharply after the company on Monday downgraded its earnings expectations in the wake of superstorm Sandy in the US.

Among resource stocks, BHP Billiton was 55 cents lower at $33.75 as it was given until 2016 to go ahead with the expansion at the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia.

Rio Tinto lost 97 cents at $57.67 as it said a planned strike at its Blair Athol coal mine over claims of unfair redundancy payments would have minimal impact before the mine closes.

Among other stocks, Seven West Media jumped 13 cents, or 11.21 per cent, to $1.29 after it told shareholders it expects to record lower first half earnings in a difficult media market, and outlined cost-cutting targets.

Engineering firm UGL dipped four cents to $10.15 after it said it still expected to post similar full year results to those of 2012, with trading conditions remaining challenging.

Incitec Pivot was 11 cents higher at $3.02 as it said it was taking steps to reduce the risk associated with its fertiliser business while continuing to focus on expanding its explosives business, especially in Asia.

The price of gold in Sydney was $US1,725.49 per fine ounce, down $US9.97 on Monday's closing price of $US1,735.46.

National turnover was 1.64 billion shares worth $4.66 billion, with 661 stocks down, 301 up and 360 unchanged.

Trevor Chappell