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AAP

2013-02-19

The Australian market has opened lower as investors remain cautious ahead of Italy's general election.

At 1023 AEDT on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 7.3 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 5,056.1 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 7.2 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 5,075.7 points.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was down eight points at 5,034 points, with 4,230 contracts traded.

CMC Markets chief analyst Ric Spooner said local investors were remaining cautious ahead of Italy's general election on February 24 and 25.

"I think the market is a little bit cautious firstly because of the Italian elections," he said.

"Europe remains a long term risk in the minds of most investors and Italy is a key economy for Europe, not just because of its size but because of the size of its debt."

He said the materials sector had a weak opening due to lower copper and aluminium prices on Monday in China and London.

BHP Billiton opened five cents higher at $38.72, but Rio Tinto fell 59 cents to $70.30 and Fortescue dropped three cents to $5.10.

Europe's main stock markets mostly fell after a weekend meeting of the Group of 20 leading economies ended with Japan being spared an accusation of unfairly devaluing its currency.

London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies slid 0.16 per cent to 6,318.19 points on Monday, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 rose 0.46 per cent to 7,628.73 points and Paris' CAC 40 added 0.18 per cent to 3,667.04 points.

Wall Street was closed for the President's Day public holiday.

In economic news on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia releases the minutes of its February board meeting and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases January's international merchandise imports figures.

In equities news, beverage company Coca-Cola Amatil's (CCA) annual profit has fallen by 22 per cent as it deals with weak consumer spending and the high Australian dollar.

Coca-Cola Amatil shares opened 26 cents higher at $13.89.

Steel and mining group Arrium announced it made a first half loss of $447.2 million as the high Australian dollar and weak construction markets cause a massive writedown on its assets.

Shares in Arrium opened two cents down to $1.24.

Ports and rail operator Asciano has increased its first half profit by 74 per cent and forecast more earnings growth in the second half of the financial year.

Asciano shares were 10 cents higher at open to $5.35.

Southern Cross Media, Monadelphous Group and Sonic Healthcare are also expected to post first half results on Tuesday, while Invocare is due to announce full year results.

National turnover at 1035 AEDT was 252 million securities worth $629 million.