Financial, health stocks weigh on market

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Drew Cratchley
(Australian Associated Press)

The Australian share market has lost its early momentum to be steady, with gains in the energy and mining sectors offset by falls by insurers and several health care companies.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down two points at 5,748.1 points at 1200 AEST, after being 0.2 per cent higher in early trade.

The Australian dollar has fallen back below 79 US cents following the US dollar’s rise overnight, and was trading at 78.93 US cents at 1200 AEST.

The share market’s energy sector has been boosted by rising oil prices, with Origin Energy up 1.9 per cent at $7.47, Oil Search up 1.5 per cent at $6.70 and Woodside Petroleum 0.6 per cent higher at $29.68.

BHP Billiton has gained one per cent to $26.25 and Rio Tinto was up 0.2 per cent at $64.90, while iron ore miner Fortescue Metals was down 0.8 per cent at $5.885.

Weighing on the market was insurer IAG, down seven per cent at $6.29, after its annual profit rose 49 per cent but its underlying insurance margin, a measure of performance watched by analysts, fell due to a rise in costs from natural disasters.

Other financial stocks were also weaker, with Suncorp down 1.5 per cent at $12.67 and AMP 2.6 per cent weaker at $4.985.

The four major banks were relatively steady.

Private hospital owner Healthscope’s annual financial results were weaker than expected, and its shares were down 14.7 per cent at $1.8675.

Rival Ramsay Health Care was another poor performer, down 2.7 per cent at $73.68.

Woolworths was up 0.5 per cent at $27.195 after it reported another quarter of food sales growth, though Big W made an annual loss of $151 million.

Casino owner The Star Entertainment Group had gained 4.1 per cent to $5.31 after lifting its annual net profit and saying it was attracting VIP gamblers from countries other than China.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 2 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 5,748.1 points at 1200 AEST.

* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 1.7 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 5,803.1 points.

* The September SPI200 futures contract was steady at 5,713 points.

* National turnover was 1.5 billion securities traded worth $2.7 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1200 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 78.93 US cents, from 79.40 US cents on Tuesday

* 86.56 Japanese yen, from 86.86 yen

* 67.13 euro cents, from 67.34 euro cents

* 61.59 British pence, from 61.68 pence

* 109.01 NZ cents, from 108.55 NZ cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1200 AEST was $US1,283.74 per fine ounce, down from $US1,285.00 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1200 AEST:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 1.9058pct, from 1.8927pct

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.623pct, from 2.5931pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* September 2017 10-year bond futures contract at 97.325 (implying a yield of 2.675pct), from 97.36 (2.64pct) on Tuesday

* September 2017 3-year bond futures contract at 98.00 (2.00pct), from 98.02 (1.98pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEST previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEST previous local session)

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