Aust shares close weaker
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The Australian share market closed weaker, with investors unwilling to push the bourse to 5000 points without new good economic news.
At the close on Monday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was 13.6 points, or 0.28 per cent weaker at 4,907.5, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 12.8 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 4,929.1.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 10 points weaker at 4,869, with 25,593 contracts traded.
The market opened higher on positive overseas leads and higher prices for base metals but fell away during the day.
The mood was not helped by the release of data showing a surprise fall in residential building approvals in December for an already struggling housing sector.
That suggests the Reserve Bank Australia (RBA) may need to cut the cash rate again in the next few months, but the central bank is not expected to move rates at its board meeting on Tuesday.
CMC Markets senior trader Tim Waterer pointed out that the Australian market had pre-emptively moved higher on Friday and outperformed Asia in anticipation of positive US jobs data.
"It appears traders took the foot off the gas pedals in the lead-up to tomorrow's RBA announcement and softer building approvals leading to softness on the bourse," he told AAP.
"Today was essentially about some key stocks on the market in the banking and materials space and profit-taking ... it's a small bump in the road on the way to the 5000 level."
The ASX200 has not hit that level since late August 2008.
In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton dropped 11 cents to $37.81, and Rio Tinto climbed 79 cents, or 1.2 per cent, to $67.99 after the Western Australian government approved plans to expand one of its Pilbara mines.
Fortescue Metals closed flat at $4.79 after it agreed to stop work on the development of the Iron Ore Holding's Iron Valley deposit in Western Australia.
Among the major banks, Commonwealth Bank eased 34 cents to $64.71, ANZ shed 19 cents to $26.55, National Australia Bank gained five cents to $28.05, and Westpac slipped 36 cents to $27.94.
Among other stocks, Argo Investments rose six cents to $6.65 as it said it does not expect strong earnings growth from Australian companies this year, although investor confidence should improve.
National carrier Qantas Airways was flat at $1.54 as it said it plans to broaden the number of destinations it flies to in Asia as part of its new alliance with Emirates.
Locally the spot price of Sydney gold was $US1,672.65 per fine ounce, up $US10.20 from Thursday's close at $US1,662.45.
National turnover was 1.82 billion securities worth $4.03 billion with 482 stocks up, 535 down and 370 unchanged.