Shares open weaker as mining stocks slide

Shares open weaker as mining stocks slide
Shares open weaker as mining stocks slide

THE sharemarket has shrugged off a positive lead from Wall Street to open weaker, led lower by miners.

At 10.15am (AEDT), the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 7.7 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 4776.3, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 7.4 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 4861.4.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was down seven points at 4775 points, with about 6000 contracts traded.

In the US overnight the Dow Jones Industrial Average went up 41.78 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 11,499.25, while the broader S&P 500 index rose 7.64 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 1242.87.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was 20.09 points, or 0.77 per cent, stronger, at 2637.31.

In the final hour of US trade, credit card companies faced a sharp sell-off though after news the Federal Reserve had proposed putting a cap on the amount the companies can charge retailers in processing fees.

At 10.23am, the major banks generally were trading stronger.

Commonwealth Bank was up 11c at $51.05, Westpac was 3c higher at $23.18, National Australia Bank had risen 4c to $24.48, but ANZ was off 1c at $23.75.

Macquarie Group was up 13c, at $37.77.

Shares in Queensland based bank and insurer Suncorp-Metway Ltd were down 2c at $8.86 after it said it would book a loss of about $40 million on the sale of a New Zealand trustee subsidiary to The Trust Co Ltd.

The Trust Co was up 11c at $6.06.

The materials sector was weaker after metals prices fell overnight.

Mining giant BHP Billiton was 19c lower at $45.19 at 10.37am, while rival Rio Tinto was 64c weaker at $86.36.

Gold producer Newcrest had fallen 52c at $40.94.

Australian Stock Report head of research Geoff Saffer said the market had drifted lower in early trade amid little company news.

Gas specialist Santos went into a trading halt ahead of an announcement of “a material transaction”.

“They have sold off a stake in their Gladstone LNG (liquefied natural gas) project and most of the details seem to have been leaked to the market,” Mr Saffer said.

“It is almost certain to be less than what they sold an earlier stake to Petronas for a few years ago,” he said.

Among other energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum had fallen 11c to $43.29 by 10.46am, after oil prices slipped overnight, but rival Oil Search had gained 4c at $7.04.

Origin Energy fell 3c to $17.12.