RTTNews - The Australian stock market is trading weak on Monday with investors taking cues from Wall Street where stocks drifted lower on Friday on weak consumer sentiment data.

Bank stocks are among the prominent losers. Select energy and materials stocks are also trading weak.

The benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 fell to 4,417.4 in early trading this morning and is currently down with a loss of 32.8 points or 0.7% at 4,428.2. The broader All Ordinaries index, which drifted down to 4,425.2, is currently trading at 4,439, down 26.1 points or 0.6% from its previous close.

On Friday, the S&P/ASX200 index had ended at 4,461, with a gain of 25.10 points, or 0.57%, while the All Ordinaries index moved up by moved up by 28.4 points or 0.64% to 4,465.

Key bank stocks are down sharply in the red. ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading lower by 2%-3%. Westpac Banking Corporation is down by nearly 1%. Diversified financial services stock Macquarie Group is down with a loss of 1.2%.

Mining stocks BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are trading lower by 1.2% and 1.8% respectively. Bluescope Steel and Orica are also trading notably lower. Fortescue Metals is up sharply by 5.5% following the company securing a pricing deal with Chinese steel mills.

Newcrest Mining Ltd lifted its annual profit by 84.7% after the price of gold rose and the company cut operating costs. The gold and copper miner's net profit for the year ended June 30 rose to A$248.1 million from A$134.3 million in the previous year. The group lifted its gold production forecast and now expects output for 2009/10 to be between 1.81 million ounces and 1.91 million ounces, up from 1.63 million ounces in 2008/09. The Newcrest Mining stock is currently trading up by 1.6%.

Among energy stocks, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search are trading weak, while Origin Energy is bucking the trend and trading nearly a percent up.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar opened sharply lower this morning with risk-averse investors beginning to doubt the pace of global economic recovery. In early trading this morning, the Aussie was quoting at US$0.8295/97, down from Friday's close of US$0.8426/29.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore are down sharply in the red this morning with their benchmark indices losing 1%-2%. The Korean market is also trading notably lower. Indonesia is also exhibiting weakness. Stock markets across the region had finished mostly higher on Friday.

On Wall Street, hurt by disappointing economic data, stocks finished notably lower on Friday despite a late pullback. The decline in equities came following the release of Reuters and the University of Michigan's preliminary report on consumer sentiment for the month of August, which showed that the consumer sentiment index unexpectedly decreased compared to the previous month.

Coupled with disappointing retail sales figures released earlier in the week, the data indicated that the American consumer is still struggling, prompting the pullback by stocks.
The Labor Department said its consumer price index was unchanged in July after increasing by an unrevised 0.7 percent in June. The lack of growth in consumer prices came in line with the expectations of economists.

The Dow closed down by 76.79 points or 0.8% at 9,321.40, the Nasdaq declined by 23.83 points or 1.2% to 1,985.52 and the S&P 500 slipped by 8.64 points or 0.9% to 1004.09.

Major European markets closed notably lower, with the French CAC 40 index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index falling by 0.8% and 0.9% respectively, while the German DAX index posted a loss of 1.7%.

Crude oil plunged on Friday amid energy demand concerns after a disappointing consumer sentiment report in the U.S. The drop took oil to its lowest closing level of the month. Light sweet crude oil for September delivery declined to US$67.51 per barrel, down US$3.01 on the session. Prices touched a low of US$67.12 per barrel during the day.

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