Aust shares close lower in line with US
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The Australian market has finished lower in line with overseas leads, as investors locked in profits on the busiest trading day of the year.
At the close on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 27.1 points, or 0.57 per cent lower at 4,690.2, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 25.8 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 4,712.3.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 29 points lower at 4,663, with 24,336 contracts traded.
CommSec market analyst Steve Daghlian said the Australian market defied negative overseas leads in early morning trade before gains were reversed in the afternoon.
"It could have gone either way, but as the day progressed the market went from being slightly higher to around half a per cent lower and there didn't appear to be one particular driver," Mr Daghlian said.
"At the end of the day we're doing a bit of profit taking."
The local market is still sitting at its highest levels in about 18 months following overall gains of more than one per cent since the beginning of the year.
However, Mr Daghlian said the US debt ceiling and upcoming spending cuts would continue to weigh on global markets.
In the US on Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 50.92 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 13,384.29.
In Europe, London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies lost 0.41 per cent to 6,064.58 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 dropped 0.56 per cent to 7,732.66 points, and in Paris the CAC 40 fell 0.68 per cent to 3,704.64 points.
Locally the mining giants were all weaker.
BHP Billiton fell 31 cents to $37.50 and Rio Tinto plummeted 80 cents to $66.60 and Fortescue fell 15 cents to $4.74.
Three of the four major banks were weaker.
ANZ fell 24 cents to $25.17, Westpac finished flat at $26.28, National Australia Bank dropped 21 cents to $25.09 and Commonwealth Bank dived $1.23 to $61.37.
The Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association also released a report showing activity in Australia's construction industry has slowed for the 31st consecutive month, with the home and apartment sector remaining especially weak.
The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1649.30 per fine ounce, down $US12.35 from Monday's local close of $US1661.65 per ounce.
National turnover was 1.3 billion shares worth $3.9 billion, with 386 stocks up, 527 down and 359 unchanged.