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AAP

2012-11-21

The Australian share market has closed lower, with investors unimpressed following a decision by European finance chiefs to delay a decision on fresh help for debt-laden Greece.

At the close on Wednesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 16.2 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 4,369.5, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 16.8 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 4,390.7.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 13 points lower at 4,385, with 23,313 contracts traded.

The Australian market had enjoyed three days of gains after positive reports about US leaders tackling their looming fiscal cliff.

But negative news outweighed the good on Wednesday.

CMC Markets senior trader Tim Waterer said the news on Greece that came through in the afternoon sent the market down.

"When you throw in the combination of flat leads from Wall St, negative news from the EU, the continued uncertainty about the fiscal cliff you have an absence of positive drivers," he told AAP.

Mining stocks were big drivers of the slide, with risk averse traders selling off cyclical stocks that depend on economic growth.

Bellwether stocks BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell, the former down 22 cents or 0.7 per cent, to $33.36, the latter down nearly one per cent to $56.95.

The volatility of recent months continued for highly geared iron ore producer Fortescue Metals, whose stocks dropped 11 cents, or 2.74 per cent, to $3.90, making it the second worst performer among the top 50 ASX companies.

The biggest fall went to fellow miner, mineral sands firm Iluka which dropped 23 cents, or 2.8 per cent, to $7.88.

The company was the best performer among the larger ASX companies last year, but has since plummeted 53 per cent from a January high of $18.88 due to its exposure to slower Chinese growth.

Upmarket department store chain David Jones dipped 16 cents, or 6.23 per cent, to $2.41 after it said sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2013 rose 0.3 per cent to $415.6 million, ending seven straight quarters of decline.

Freight rail company QR National was one cent higher at $3.49 after it said it expects to haul just enough coal this financial year to meet its previous forecasts.

Among the major banks, National Australia Bank was two cents down at $23.67, ANZ also fell two cents to $23.52, Commonwealth Bank was three cents off at $57.88 and Westpac sagged nine cents at $24.60.

The release of monthly manufacturing data out of China on Thursday could create more volatility on the market.

The Sydney gold price closed at $US1,724.15 per fine ounce, down $US9.49 from Tuesday's close of $US$1,733.64.

National turnover was 1.3 billion securities worth $3.2 billion, with 413 stocks up, 499 down and 365 unchanged.

Greg Roberts