The Australian stock market fell, to record the first weekly decline after three of gains, as the prospect of further interest rate hikes in China saw investors err on the side of caution. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 32.1 points, or 0.66 per cent, at 4,852.1 while the broader All Ordinaries index shed 33.1 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 4,939.3. The All Ords lost 1.8 per cent for the week. On the ASX 24, the June share price index futures contract was 23 points lower at 4,869 points, with 30,854 contracts traded.
Newcrest was up 60 cents, or 1.47 per cent, to close at $41.30 while St Barbara had gained seven cents, or 3.21 per cent, to $2.25. The spot price of gold in Sydney was $1,476.50 per fine ounce, up $14.60 from Thursday's local close of $1,461.90. Singapore Telecommunications had inched two cents higher to $2.33 while Amcom Telecommunications lifted 1.5 cents, or 4.05 per cent, to 38.5 cents. Among consumer staples, Coles owner Wesfarmers was up three cents at $33.07 but rival Woolworths was 15 cents lower at $26.53. Mining heavyweight BHP Billiton was down 48 cents at $47.53, while Rio Tinto had retreated 97 cents to $84.15. Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis told shareholders at the miner's annual general meeting in London overnight that world markets remained fragile, but the company was well placed for growth as emerging markets urbanised.
The big four banks were weaker. ANZ had dropped 40 cents, or 1.67 per cent, to $23.61, Commonwealth Bank eased 45 cents to $52.22, National Australia Bank was 28 cents softer at $26.19 and Westpac was down 12 cents at $24.80. National Australia Bank said it was looking closely at further expansion in the UK, with authorities there moving to force large banks to divest branches. Also making headlines on Friday, building materials supplier Boral said it would increase its exposure to the Queensland mining and resources sector with a $173 million acquisition, and growth in Western Australia was also likely. Boral shares gained two cents to $5.07. The best performing stock on the S&P/ASX 100 index was Paladin Energy, up nine cents, or 2.54 per cent, at $3.64. This was despite the miner saying it expected uranium production for this financial year to be at the lower end of its forecast range due to rainfall at its Namibian mine and a diesel shortage at its Malawi mine. The worst performing stock in among the top 100 was Asciano, down five cents, or 2.95 per cent, at $1.645. Preliminary national turnover was 2.52 billion securities worth $4.8 billion, with 508 stocks up, 595 lower and 427 steady.
Heightened talk China will move to further tighten the policy reins on its booming economy nudged the Australian dollar slightly lower Friday after a session devoid of local leads. Speculation Chinese authorities will raise banks' reserve requirement ratio, which sets the amount of capital they must hold, filtered into the market after the Asian powerhouse reported strong economic growth and inflation data. China's inflation accelerated to a near three-year high in March, while economic growth was stronger than analysts expected in the first quarter, according to government data. The Australian dollar was changing hands at $1.0522, down from $1.0537 late Thursday. Against the yen, it traded at 87.55, down from 88.00.