The West

The Australian sharemarket is slightly lower at the open.
The Australian sharemarket is slightly lower at the open.

The Australian sharemarket had drifted into the red mid-session after a positive start, in a repeat of yesterday's trading pattern.

At 9.50am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 3.3 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 4714 and the broader All Ordinaries index was off 3.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 4734.5.

On the ASX 24, the March share price index futures contract was up eight points at 4700 with 9809 contracts traded.

CMC Markets chief markets strategist Michael McCarthy said the local market was continuing to rise as investors realised that equity returns were outstripping bank deposit interest rates.

"It looks like underlying investor demand is seeping back into the market," he said.

In the US on Monday Dow Jones industrial average dropped 50.92 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 13,384.29.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100 index of leading companies lost 0.41 per cent to 6064.58 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 dropped 0.56 per cent to 7732.66 points, and in Paris the CAC 40 fell 0.68 per cent to 3704.64 points.

Locally the mining giants were mixed at noon.

BHP Billiton gained five cents to $37.86 but Rio Tinto plummeted 80 cents to $66.60 and Fortescue was fell six cents to $4.83.

The four major banks also had a mixed start.

ANZ fell 2.5 cents to $25.385, Westpac jumped 17 cents to $26.45, National Australia Bank dropped one cent to $25.29 and Commonwealth Bank dived 70 cents to $61.90.

In economic news, the nation's trade deficit widened in November, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

The Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association also released a report showing activity in Australia's construction industry has slowed for the 31st consecutive month, with the home and apartment sector remaining especially weak.

National turnover was 514 million shares worth $1.238 billion, with 344 stocks up, 371 down and 308 unchanged.

The West Australian

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