The stock markets in Australia closed slightly lower on Wednesday, despite positive closing in the U.S markets, on weaker economic data. In the Wall Street, all the major indices showed strength and ended in positive territory despite weaker economic data and gloomy outlook for the near future.

On Tuesday, the Dow closed up 86.90 points or 1.2% at 7,609, the Nasdaq closed up 26.79 points or 1.8% at 1,529 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.34 points or 1.3% at 798.

In Asian trading, crude oil declined 2.15% or $1.07 at $48.57 a barrel, in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $49.66 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday, up $1.25 a barrel, after hitting an intraday high of $50.00 and a low of $47.77, amid weaker U.S. dollar, as traders await the weekly inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 2.4 points, or 0.07% to close at 3,580 and broader All Ordinaries index shed 5.1 points, or 0.14% to close at 3,527.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics' or ABS data showed that retail sales in Australia dropped 2.0% in February on month, marking the largest monthly decline since July 2000.

Further, the ABS also released building approvals data that showed Australian residential housing approvals were up 7.8% on month in February at 10,050, but down 25.5% on year.

Additionally, the Australian Industry Group / PricewaterhouseCoopers Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index came in at 33.4 in March, up from 31.7 in February.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations' data showed that Australia's skilled job vacancies in March were down 10.8% on month, posting an index score of 40.7 points, down 6.5% on month. On an annual basis, job vacancies were down 57.9%.

Banking stocks ended mixed. While Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.29% and investment bank Macquarie Group fell 2.40%, ANZ Banking Group gained 0.83%, National Australia Bank advanced 1.09% and Westpac rose 1.73

In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton edged up 0.60%, and Rio Tinto decreased 2.07%. Among gold miners, Lihir Gold advanced 2.13%, and Sino Gold edged up 0.19%, while Newcrest Mining fell 0.70%.

Among energy stocks, Woodside rose 0.79%, and Santos gained 2.61%. However, Oil Search slipped down 0.95%.

In the retail sector, David Jones edged up 0.32%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers gained 2.12%, while Woolworths lost 0.48%.

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