Fortescue Metals shares had their biggest gain of the year but the Australian market slumped on concerns of how US authorities will respond to the biggest rise in inflation in 31 years.
Fortescue shares on Thursday jumped 8.19 per cent as materials and telecommunication stocks proved the only categories to close higher.
Andrew Forrest's company easily outperformed BHP (up 2.57 per cent) and Rio Tinto (up 1.86 per cent) and experts offered different reasons why.
Some pointed to an increase in iron ore futures prices. Others cited a deal between the company and a hydrogen provider to make zero-carbon aviation fuel.
Deep Data Analytics chief executive Mathan Somasundaram said investors were tipping that troubled Chinese property developers, important Fortescue customers, were about to gain easier credit access.
One of those developers, Evergrande, paid bondholders this week after recently accruing more than $US300 billion in liabilities.
Fortescue investors were betting lawmakers would allow easier access to credit. This would lead to more ordering of iron ore for steel.
Yet the weight on most of the market was the US inflation figures which caused Wall Street to slide.
The US consumer price index delivered a jump of 0.9 per cent as demand for consumer goods in the pandemic outstrips supply.
Mr Somasundaram said the market was pricing in US rate rises next year.
"People are moving past the idea of inflation being transitory to it being persistently elevated," he said.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 42 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 7381.9.
The All Ordinaries closed down 36.2 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 7701.2.
Australia's jobless rate rose from 4.6 per cent to 5.2 per cent for October as more people sought work after coronavirus lockdowns.
The Australian dollar eased to 72 US cents. Traders anticipate the Reserve Bank will baulk at raising rates while unemployment moves higher.
On the market, Ramsay Health Care first-quarter earnings dropped after lockdowns stopped elective surgery in some countries.
The earnings were down 27.8 per cent to $197.4 million after parts of Australia, the UK and France were affected.
Shares dropped almost four per cent to $69.38.
Healthcare giant CSL was down 2.35 per cent to $306.83.
Gold miners did well after the inflation concerns. Evolution rose about five per cent. Northern Star improved by more than four per cent.
Bank losses varied. ANZ and Westpac were each down less than 0.2 per cent. The Commonwealth and NAB each shed about 1.6 per cent.
Accounting software vendor Xero has bought US group Locate Inventory for $25.9 million.
Locate provides software that helps companies manage their inventory.
Xero's first-half earnings fell 19 per cent due to more spending on sales, marketing and product development.
Shares fell 6.22 per cent to $138.12.
Explosives provider Orica posted a full-year loss due to a stronger Aussie dollar and fewer coal sales to China.
Geopolitical tensions between Australia and China were blamed for reduced thermal coal exports.
Shares were down 3.65 per cent to $14.77.
Media company Nine upgraded earnings guidance for its publishing arm from $30-40 million to $40-45 million.
Chairman Peter Costello said the advertising market had improved to be at pre-COVID levels.
Shares were up about three per cent to $3.05.
The Australian dollar was buying 73.11 US cents at 1719 AEDT, lower from 73.58 cents at Wednesday's close.
ON THE ASX
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 42 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 7381.9 on Thursday.
* The All Ordinaries closed down 36.2 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 7701.2.
* At 1719 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up 10 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 7381 points.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 73.11 US cents, from 73.58 cents on Wednesday
* 83.31 Japanese yen, from 83.03 yen
* 63.68 Euro cents, from 63.54 cents
* 54.48 British pence, from 54.28 pence
* 103.79 NZ cents, from 103.60 cents.