The Australian share market has been unable to sustain its morning gains, closing in negative territory for the 10th time in the past 12 sessions.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 finished on Wednesday down 15.3 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 6,508.5, while the broader All Ordinaries dipped 18.5 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 6,682.3.
"It's been a really horrible time for those who are already invested, and especially that are in commodities, because the market is going into hibernation, and now the commodity super cycle is also going into hibernation, pricing in that we won't have a recovery trade in China," Saxo Markets Australia market analyst Jessica Amir said.
"That kind of the talk of what's grinding commodity markets lower, and it just so happens that commodities have been holding up the market this year. So we're losing our strongest performer in the market."
The heavyweight materials sector dropped 0.2 per cent on Wednesday, with modest gains by the iron ore giants failing to make up for losses by goldminers and lithium producers.
Rio Tinto rose 0.6 per cent to $104.50 while BHP and Fortescue both gained 0.2 per cent, to $41.03 and $17.62, respectively.
But St Barbara plunged 18.1 per cent to a five-year low of 92.5 cents after the goldminer flagged issues with two of its mines. Inflationary pressures had led it to review whether to proceed with a project to extend the life of its Simberi mine in Papua New Guinea, while regulators in Canada are raising questions about a plan to convert its open-pit Touquoy mine into a dumping pit.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Alex Barkley called it a "major blow to earnings and value" and that the lack of co-ordination with regulators was concerning.
Meanwhile Core Lithium dropped 15.4 per cent to 85c and fellow lithium player Lake Resources plunged 13.4 per cent to 84c, while Pilbara Minerals dropped 2.8 per cent and Allkem Limited dipped 1.5 per cent.
"We've seen some really horrible losses in the lithium space," Ms Amir remarked. "That's because the rise of clean energy has been pushed to one side."
Germany is restarting its coal-fired energy plants to replace natural gas, and Australia's recent east coast energy crunch has renewed emphasis on the fossil fuel, Ms Amir noted.
Stanmore Resources soared 11.5 per cent to $1.99 on Wednesday, even as chief executive Marcelo Matos released a statement expressing strong disappointment with the "extraordinary tax increases" on coal royalties in Queensland's 2022/23 budget.
Whitehaven Coal dipped 1.7 per cent and Yancoal fell 0.2 per cent but New Hope added 3.7 per cent.
Elsewhere in the energy sector, Woodside gained 2.0 per cent to $31.97 and Ampol added 3.9 per cent to $34.34.
In the financial space, all of the big banks were down as speculation rose that the Reserve Bank will hike rates by another 50 basis points next month.
ANZ dropped 0.6 per cent to $21.83, Westpac fell 0.9 per cent to $19.53, NAB dipped 0.2 per cent to $26.99 and CBA fell 0.1 per cent to $89.57.
Shares in former red-hot buy now, pay later company Zip Co fell another 11.4 per cent to 46.5c, from an all-time high of more than $14 last year.
Co-founder and chief executive Larry Diamond released a statement saying the company was well-funded and continuing to execute on its business plan to seize a strong market opportunity.
Tech shares were again collectively the worst performing, falling 1.5 per cent, followed by consumer discretionary stocks. Kmart and Bunnings owner Wesfarmers dropped 0.7 per cent to $42.63.
Crown was flat at $13.09 despite its Crown Sydney casino in Barangaroo finally receiving permission to begin operations from regulators concerned about its suitability to hold a gaming license.
The Australian dollar meanwhile was buying 68.98 US cents, down from 69.76 US cents at Monday's close.
ON THE ASX:
* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 15.3 points, or 0.23 per cent higher, at 6,508.5 on Wednesday.
* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 18.5 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 6,692.3
One Australian dollar buys:
* 68.98 US cents, from 69.71 US cents at Tuesday's close
* 94.03 Japanese yen, from 94.21 yen
* 65.77 Euro cents, from 66.15 cents
* 56.66 British pence, from 56.70 pence
* 110.26 NZ cents, from 109.78 cents