Aust stocks close lower
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SYDNEY, Feb 26 AAP
February 26 2013, 5:25PM
The Australian share market has closed lower but pared back earlier heavy falls.
There were losses among the miners and big banks as investors took profits after recent gains.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday closed down 52.2 points, or 1.03 per cent, at 5,003.6 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 50.9 points, or 1.0 per cent, to 5,021.8 points.
On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was 64 points lower at 4,978 points, with 34,068 contracts traded.
Australian shares were down 1.5 per cent at the start of trade on Tuesday as investors reacted to election results in Italy, where former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's party had put in a good showing.
The local market pared back some of those losses during morning trade to be down about 0.75 per cent at noon before fading in the afternoon.
CMC Markets trader Ben Taylor said the Italian election results suggested reforms put in place under Prime Minister Mario Monto were now considered unlikely to continue in their current form, causing investors to sell stocks.
Mr Taylor any sell-off was limited due to local economic factors such as low interest rates.
"After suffering a 1.5 per cent loss in morning trade our equity market has fought back half of its losses exhibiting the recent strength of the current uptrend," Mr Taylor said.
"While many traders have been looking for reasons to take profits, the market's inherent strength has met any pullback with swift bidding support as low interest rates continue to see cash pour in from the side line.
"If the uptrend remains intact, we are likely to see previous gains added to over the next month."
The four major banks all finished in negative territory.
ANZ dipped 31 cents to $28.16, Commonwealth Bank lost 28 cents to $65.47, National Australia Bank eased 33 cents to $29.95 and Westpac ended 14 cents lower at $30.23.
The big miners also ended the day weaker.
BHP Billiton fell 55 cents to $36.35, Rio Tinto slumped 58 cents to $65.57 and Fortescue was down 14 cents at $4.61.
Gold was the only sector on the market to rise, climbing 1.34 per cent according to IRESS data.
The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1,593.39 per fine ounce, up $US7.24 from Monday's local close at $US1,586.15 per ounce.
Making news on Tuesday, Seven Group Holdings said first half net profit came in $256.8 million, up from $52.1 million in the previous corresponding period.
The stock rose 46 cents, or 4.58 per cent, to $10.51.
QBE fell 28 cents, or 2.15 per cent, to $12.75 after the insurance giant said net profit grew by eight per cent in calendar 2012 to $US761 million ($A743.27 million).
It also flagged staff cuts to save at least $US250 million ($A244.18 million) a year until the end of 2015.
National turnover was 1.98 billion securities worth $5.16 billion, with 356 stocks up, 621 down and 372 unchanged.
By Kylie Williams