ASX lower as uncertainty returns to market

Monday, 22 July, 2019 - 15:35
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The Australian share market has edged lower, with traders apparently feeling cautious on a number of fronts.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished down 9.1 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 6,691.2 points at 1615 AEST on Monday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down five points, or 0.07 per cent, to 6,781.2 points.

"I think we've definitely got uncertainty coming into the market today," said X-chainge co-founder and director Nick Twidale.

Markets were feeling jittery with Iran seizing a British-flagged oil tanker and protests in Hong Kong turning violent over the weekend; a leadership vote on a new prime minister in the UK set for Tuesday that could determine whether Brexit will be "hard" or "soft"; and a busy week beginning starting in the US in which numerous giant corporations including Amazon and Google parent Alphabet Inc will report earnings, Mr Twidale said.

"All these things have the possibility to turn one way or the other," he said. "It feels like something's going to happen soon in the market. It's interesting to see how it goes."

Energy and material shares were the biggest gainers on Monday, with both up one per cent as a whole as both iron ore and oil prices rose.

Mining BHP was up 0.7 per cent to $41.34, Fortescue Metals up 2.3 per cent to $8.90 and Rio Tinto up 0.8 per cent to $103.17.

Gold miners also posted gains as the price of the precious metal hovered over $US1424 ($A2025) an ounce, with Northern Star up 3.3 per cent to an all-time high of $13.92, Newcrest up 2.3 per cent to a seven-year high of $33.92 and Evolution Mining up 2.7 per cent to an all-time high of $4.96.

Also, Saracen Minerals rose by 2.4 per cent to an all-time high of $4.25 after saying its production cost for the June quarter was $A1,030 an ounce, beating guidance of $A1,050 to $A1,100 an ounce.

But St Barbara closed down one cent, or 0.3 per cent, to $3.54 after it said it had completed its $780 million acquisition of Vancouver-based Atlantic Gold Corporation.

Energy companies were higher amid tension in the Persian Gulf, with Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker pushing the price of crude up 1.4 per cent over $US63.

Oil Search gained 1.6 per cent to $6.78, Santos was up 0.7 per cent to $6.90 and Origin Energy was up 0.9 per cent to $7.58.

The big banks were mostly lower, with Commonwealth down 0.3 per cent to $81.85, Westpac down 0.1 per cent to $27.84 and ANZ down a single cent to $27.37.

NAB was the outlier, up 0.2 per cent to $27.56.

Property and health care stocks were all down more than one per cent, with biotech giant CSL down 1.3 per cent to $221.81 and Westfield owner Scentre Group down 1.3 per cent to $221.81.

The Aussie dollar is buying 70.32 US cents, from 70.68 US cents on Friday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 9.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 6,691.2 points at 1630 AEST on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries was down five points, or 0.1 per cent, to 6,781.2.

* At 1630 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down 18 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 6,624.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 70.34 US cents, from 70.63 US cents on Thursday

* 75.92 Japanese yen, from 76.03 yen

* 62.70 euro cents, from 62.72 cents

* 56.24 British pence, from 56.40 pence

* 103.91 NZ cents, from 104.21 cents.