RTTNews - The Australian stock market opened on a weak note Thursday with investors going in for some profit taking after recent rallies. Materials and energy stocks are trading weak. Financial, consumer staples and telecom stocks are trading mixed, while healthcare and industrial stocks are exhibiting some weakness.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index is currently trading down by 26.9 points, or 0.6%, at 4,427.6. The broader All Ordinaries index is trading lower by 23.9 points or 0.5% at 4,440.5.

On Wednesday, the S&P/ASX200 index had closed up 48.7 points, or 1.11%, at 4454.5, close to the 10-month high 4465.1 close on August 14. The All Ordinaries index had gained 46.9 points, or 1.06%, to 4464.4.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are down by 1.7% and 2.9% respectively. Orica, Incitec Pivot, Lihir Gold and Bluescope Steel are also trading weak. Fortescue Metals and Newcrest Mining are trading in positive territory with modest gains.

Energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search are all trading weak.

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac are up modestly, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia is trading weak. Macquarie Group is trading flat.

James Packer's Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd announced late Wednesday an annual net profit of A$426.99 million, boosted by a one-off gain and plans to buy back up to 10% of its shares. ConsMedia's net profit for the year ended June 30 was skewed by a A$346.5 million gain on PBL Media after the company reduced its investment to less than 0.1% in December.
Excluding one-offs, net profit fell 20% to A$83.6 million on a pro-forma basis, following lower contributions from its investments. The media stock is trading lower by 1.8%.

Ramsay Health Care Ltd has called a trading halt pending the outcome of an institutional share placement. The company said the share placement would be announced and conducted today.

Real estate trust GPT Group Ltd has posted a first half loss of A$1.20 billion and says the outlook for Australian real estate is improving. The group said it was on track to meet guidance of A$365 million in realized operating income for 2009 as it posted the interim loss, which compares to a loss of A$67.7 million for the prior-year first half. The stock is trading nearly a percent up over its previous close.

In economic news on Thursday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases private new capital expenditure and expenditure data for June quarter.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened weaker on Thursday as comments from Chinese officials to possibly restrain investment in industries such as steel and cement hampered the commodity-driven currency. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8282/86, down 0.9% from Wednesday's close of US$0.8358/60. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 0.8242 to the U.S. dollar.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is trading sharply lower. Singapore and Korea are also down with notable losses. The New Zealand market is trading flat. Stock markets across the region had closed mostly higher on Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks finished Wednesday's session little changed, with the day's trading marred by choppy movement despite largely positive news on the economic front. Though data on new home sales and durable goods orders in July triggered some buying early on in the day, stocks gave up most of the gains as traders chose to take profits ahead of the weekly jobless claims report.

The Dow closed up by 4.23 points at 9,543.52, the Nasdaq gained 0.20 points to finish at 2024.43 and the S&P 500 rose by 0.12 points to 1,028.12.

Major European markets closed moderately lower. The French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.3%, while the German DAX index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively.

Oil prices fell after official data showed a surprise jump in crude inventories in the U.S., the world's biggest energy consuming nation. Light sweet crude for October delivery dropped 62 cents to US$71.43 a barrel, a day after it climbed to a 10-month intraday high of US$75.

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