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ASX set to end the week soft
ASX set to end the week soft

UPDATE 7.15am: Australian stocks have opened lower, dropping from near 15-month highs amid weakness in the resources and financial sectors.

At 7.28am, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 20.5 points, or 0.45 per cent, at 4538.9 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index had fallen 19.1 points, or 0.42 per cent, to 4561.8 points.

On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 14 points weaker at 4536 points, with 7597 contracts traded.

The S&P/ASX200 closed at its highest level since July 27, 2011, at the end of yesterday’s local session.

Lonsec client adviser Michael Heffernan said despite the declines so far on Friday the market was in a period of consolidation.

“The market is not going to go up every day, you can't expect that,” Mr Heffernan said.

“The fact that the market is only down 0.4 per cent early in the morning is a good effort after a lacklustre performance particularly in the US.”

Making news, NAB said its cash earnings for fiscal 2012 were in line with the prior year.

In percentage terms, NAB had posted the biggest decline among stocks in the S&P/ASX20, having fallen 3.3 per cent, or 89 cents, to $26.06.

The other big retail banks were also lower - ANZ was down 29 cents at $25.66, CBA was off 41 cents at $56.64 and Westpac had slipped 25 cents to $25.70.

The worst-performing sector at the open was gold stocks, which were down 0.95 per cent, according to IRESS data.

The spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1743 per fine ounce, down $US6.20 from yesterday's local close of $US1749.20 per ounce.

In other news, two large parcels of GrainCorp shares changed hands before the start of trade at a price well above yesterday's closing price of $8.85.

IRESS data showed two trades of 22,805,058 million shares in the grain handler changed hands for $11.75.

National turnover was 319.3 million securities worth $1.0 billion, with 272 stocks up, 268 down and 283 unchanged.