The Australian stock market is trading lower on Tuesday, snapping three straight sessions of gains, following a modest loss on Wall Street overnight as well as falling commodity prices. In the local market, resource stocks led the losers. Traders are also eagerly awaiting Reserve Bank of Australia's cash interest rate decision. In early trading, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is losing 30 points or 0.79% to 3,727, after closing more than half a percent higher on Monday. The broader All Ordinaries index is down 31 points or 0.83% to 3,666.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weaker. The Aussie opened at US$0.7143-0.7149, down from Monday's close of US$0.7166-0.7171.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks closed Monday's trading session lower, amid new pessimism over the financial sector and fears of poor earnings reports in the coming week. The U.S. Treasury Department extended the deadline for applications to its public-private initiative to buy up distressed assets from banks by two weeks until April 24. The Dow closed down 42 points or 0.52% at 7,976, the Nasdaq lost 15 points or 0.93% to 1,607, and the S&P 500 fell 7 points or 0.83% to finish at 835.
On the economic front, the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association's Performance of Construction index for March registered a reading of 30.4, a gain of 0.9 points from the February reading but still below the 50.0 mark that separated expansion in the sector from contraction.
Further, the Reserve Bank of Australia is scheduled to announce its decision on the cash interest rate.
Among banking stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia is down 0.84%, ANZ Banking Group is edging down 0.76%, and National Australia Bank is falling 1.91%. Westpac is slipping 0.92%, and investment bank Macquarie Group is dropping 2.26%.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton is losing 2.29%, and Rio Tinto is plunging 8.21%. Gold miners were weaker, after gold closed lower for a third straight session on Monday. Lihir Gold is losing 1.37%, Sino Gold is dropping 4.38%, and Newcrest Mining is falling 2.70%.
On Monday, crude oil futures for May delivery closed lower, briefly breaking the key technical support level of $50 a barrel, amid demand worries with stock markets in the red. Traders are also looking forward to Wednesday's Department of Energy inventory report.
Oil closed down $1.46 at $51.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday, after hitting an intraday low of $49.81 and a high of $53.60. In the Asian session Tuesday, crude is currently up $0.20 at $51.25 a barrel in electronic trading.
Among energy stocks, Woodside is edging down 0.28%, and Oil Search is losing 1.81%, while Santos is adding 0.41%.
In the retail sector, David Jones is edging down 0.69%, while Coles' owner Wesfarmers is adding 0.94%, and Woolworths is gaining 0.87%.
Telephone company Telstra Corp Ltd is rising 4.7% after the government announced plans to build a new A$43 billion national high-speed fibre-optic broadband network. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the government would ask private companies join a new private-public firm to build the network. Project will support 37,000 jobs.
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