ASX ends down, traders wary of heights

·4-min read

Australia's share market started the week lower as investors continued to step back from the milestone level reached on Thursday.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 21.2 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 6974 on Monday.

The All Ordinaries closed lower by 27.1 points, or 0.37 per cent, to 7225.2 points.

Most sectors were lower. The materials sector had one of the biggest falls, 1.23 per cent.

The ASX closed lower for a second consecutive session.

On Thursday, the ASX200 closed at its highest level (6998.8) since the coronavirus crash in February last year.

The index briefly rose higher than 7000 points on Thursday, but CMC Markets chief strategist Michael McCarthy said the level had since proved a bridge too far for traders.

He noted trading volumes were down.

"So I suspect there was not active selling, but buyers were reluctant to step up to market highs," he said.

Head of Australian equity strategy at fund manager Tamim, Ron Shamgar, was more optimistic about markets.

"If you look at the interest rate outlook here and in the US, (central banks) are forecasting rates to stay quite low for quite a while," he said.

Mr Shamgar also cited US President Joe Biden's efforts to pass $US2.3 trillion infrastructure stimulus, and increasing coronavirus vaccinations, as reasons why the US economy would rebound.

"All this will fuel markets to go higher in the medium term," he said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on the weekend said he did not expect the Fed's benchmark interest rate, currently nearly zero, would be raised this year.

He told a TV network the economy was about to grow much more quickly, though the coronavirus remained a threat.

In Australia, the Morrison government ditched its vaccine timetable after health advice not to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50.

The government has since ordered 20 million more Pfizer doses.

On the ASX, the big miners were all lower as metals prices dropped.

BHP dipped 1.05 per cent to $46.18, Fortescue shed 1.63 per cent to $20.55 and Rio Tinto declined by 0.54 per cent to $114.88.

Energy provider Santos said it was offering boss Kevin Gallagher a $6 million incentive to better deliver major projects to 2025.

Mr Gallagher will receive $6 million in shares if he achieves the results.

The company will give more details at its annual general meeting on Thursday.

Shares were up 0.85 per cent to $7.13.

Crown Casino said Bank of Queensland director Bruce Carter will join its board as a non-executive director.

Mr Carter is chair of the Australian Submarine Corporation and Aventus Capital.

A series of Crown directors resigned in recent months after a NSW inquiry found the casino giant allowed money laundering through subsidiaries' bank accounts.

Shares were lower by 0.9 per cent to $12.09.

In banking, the Commonwealth was the only one of the big four banks to close lower and slipped 0.47 per cent to $86.72. The others closed higher by less than half a per cent.

Synlait Milk said chief executive Leon Clement resigned.

Mr Clement has been in the role for two and a half years.

The company's co-founder John Penno will act as chief executive until a replacement is found.

Shares were down 1.86 per cent to $3.16.

On Tuesday, results of the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index and monthly National Australia Bank business survey will be published.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics will issue its weekly payrolls jobs report.

The Australian dollar was buying 76.18 US cents at 1717 AEST, higher from 76.07 US cents at Friday's close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 21.2 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 6974 on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed lower by 27.1 points, or 0.37 per cent, to 7225.2 points.

* At 1717 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down by two points, or 0.03 per cent, to 6947 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 76.18 US cents, from 76.07 cents on Friday

* 83.44 Japanese yen, from 83.21 yen

* 64.09 Euro cents, from 63.89 cents

* 55.50 British pence, from 55.54 pence

* 108.28 NZ cents, from 108.31 cents.