Aust share market closes slightly lower
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The Australian share market has closed slightly weaker, snapping a 10-day winning streak, after markets in the United States fell.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 17.9 points, or 0.37 per cent, to 4,878.8 points, on Thursday while the broader All Ordinaries index was off 18.1 points, or 0.37 per cent, at 4,901.0 points.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 15 points lower at 4,845 points, with 34,662 contracts traded.
On Wall Street overnight, markets closed modestly lower after data showed the US economy unexpectedly shrank in the last quarter of 2012, and the US Federal Reserve maintained its loose monetary policy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 44.77 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 13,909.65 points.
OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said the US economic data had set the Australian market off on the wrong foot.
A fall in the shares of supermarket operator Woolworths had also weighed upon the consumer staples sector.
"It`s just a bit of a pause for reflection today," Mr Le Brun said.
"It was just a bridge too far to make it 11 (market rises) out of 11 (trading sessions)."
Mr Le Brun said that despite the weaker market, momentum was still on the upside given the market had bounced off 4,906 points twice in recent sessions.
"That's just proved to be a little bit of a glass ceiling for the market to get on top of at this stage," he said.
Woolworths fell 41 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $31.24 despite reporting first half supermarket sales rose by 3.2 per cent.
In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton descended 14 cents to $37.48, and Rio Tinto reversed 76 cents to $66.36.
Whitehaven Coal dumped 19 cents, or 5.48 per cent, to $3.28 after warning first half earnings and profit would fall due to operational issues, weak coal markets and the high Australian dollar.
Origin Energy was 14 cents higher at $12.59 as it reported that production was steady in the three months to December and all maintenance work planned for the financial year was complete.
Among the major banks, National Australia Bank backtracked 28 cents to $27.36, Westpac eased 13 cents to $28.04, Commonwealth Bank dipped 25 cents to $64.45, and ANZ was steady at $26.58.
Among other stocks, biotech Pharmaxis plunged 57 cents, or 45.6 per cent, to 68 cents after its cystic fibrosis treatment received a negative review from advisers to regulators in the US.
Explosives and mining chemicals supplier Orica backpedalled 14 cents to $25.63 after saying it was on track to meet its guidance on financial performance despite a drop in its specialty bolts and injectable chemicals business.
Australia's largest cattle producer, Australian Agricultural Company, lost 3.5 cents to $1.215, after making a $8.4 million loss in 2012 due to the impact of a suspension of live exports.
Virgin Australia nudged up 0.5 cents to 43 cents after its $98 million plan to buy regional airline Skywest was given the go-ahead by the competition watchdog.
The price of gold in Sydney was $US1,680.25 per fine ounce, up $US22.645 on Wednesday's close of US1,667.605.
National turnover was 1.7 billion securities worth $4.51 billion.