Shares on the Australian market had a third consecutive loss after investors were troubled by a coronavirus variant and underwhelmed by a US economic stimulus deal.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 70.3 points, or 1.05 per cent, to 6599.6 on Tuesday, after Wall Street closed lower.
The decline sets the index back to levels recorded early in the month.
The All Ordinaries lost 74.5 points, or 1.08 per cent, to 6845.5.
ThinkMarkets analyst Carl Capolingua wondered if the `Santa rally’, a consistent run of gains which often happens through December, would happen.
“If Santa is planning a visit, he’s only got a day and a half to go,” he said, referring to Thursday’s shortened ASX session.
The discovery in the UK of a coronavirus variant which is up to 70 per cent more infectious meant trouble for commodities prices and stock.
On the ASX, most sectors were lower. Energy was the hardest hit, down 2.75 per cent. Oil prices tumbled almost three per cent after European countries closed borders to the UK.
Materials dropped 2.07 per cent after metals prices sagged.
Yet Mr Capolingua believed influences other than the virus were at play too.
“I think it’s a bit simple to put it down to what’s going on in UK,” he said of the ASX loss.
He said investors may be disappointed about the size of the US stimulus deal.
US markets closed lower despite a $US900 billion ($1.2 trillion) pandemic relief package, which had been keenly awaited for months.
There had been negotiations for greater stimulus. However, politicians this week settled on a figure and Congress passed the package on Tuesday.
In Australia, retail sales figures showed a seven per cent rise in November as Victorians enjoyed shopping after months of onerous coronavirus restrictions.
However, border restrictions across the country due to a Sydney virus outbreak could reduce retailers’ December joy.
NSW authorities added eight local COVID-19 cases to the cluster, which has spawned 90 infections.
On the ASX, Ramsay Health Care signed a deal to continue treating COVID-19 patients for England’s National Health Service.
The deal runs for three months to the end of March.
Shares closed up 0.99 per cent to $63.12.
In banking, ANZ lost its chief financial officer of four years, Michelle Jablko, to Transurban.
The bank’s shares closed down 1.72 per cent to $22.91. Transurban closed lower by 0.93 per cent to $13.87.
Among major ANZ rivals, the Commonwealth slipped 0.7 per cent to $82.42, NAB declined 1.59 per cent to $22.93 and Westpac lost 1.61 per cent to $19.56.
In mining, BHP lost 1.76 per cent to $42.89. Fortescue declined 2.33 per cent to $23.48, and Rio Tinto fell 2.69 per cent to $115.41.
On Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will publish importing and exporting figures for November.
Iron ore exports are likely to attract attention following the steady climb in price of the metal in recent months.
The Aussie dollar was buying 75.66 US cents at 1721 AEDT, up from 75.62 US cents at Monday’s close.
ON THE ASX
* The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed lower by 70.3 points, or 1.05 per cent, to 6599.6 on Tuesday.
* The All Ordinaries lost 74.5 points, or 1.08 per cent, to 6845.5.
* At 1721 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was higher by five points, or 0.08 per cent, to 6514.
One Australian dollar buys:
* 75.66 US cents, from 75.62 cents on Monday
* 78.26 Japanese yen, from 78.24 yen
* 61.90 Euro cents, from 62.07 cents
* 56.44 British pence, from 56.67 pence
* 107.14 NZ cents, from 106.68 cents.