The Australian share market ended the financial year with a seventh straight daily loss due to weaker than expected economic data from China and the United States.
The major indices hit their lowest points since early August last year in early trade but managed to recover some ground.
At 1615 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 44.2 points, or 1.02 per cent, at 4,301.5 points, after hitting a low of 4,249.5.
The broader All Ordinaries index was down 45.8 points, or 1.05 per cent, at 4,324.8, after a low of 4,273.2.
On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the September futures contract was 54 points lower at 4,284 points, on volume of 35,185 contracts.
The falls came after a negative lead from Wall Street and European markets, which dropped due to a downwards revision of China’s economic activity and the steepest fall in US consumer confidence since February.
Macquarie Private Wealth division director Lucinda Chan said it was encouraging to see the market come off its lows through the day.
“We had a bit of a dip yesterday afternoon off the back of the Chinese growth numbers, so given that we had a bit of an early start and probably didn’t have as much of a fall today,” she said.
“The market is extremely sensitive with these concerns, and today is the last day of the financial year so we probably have received a little bit of an extra belting,” Ms Chan said.
She said a turnaround in sentiment would only occur after more positive economic data and that investors were awaiting US non-farm payroll data due on Friday.
“What we need to see is a lot more positive economic data in the US, that is probably going to be the key for strength to come back into the market,” she said.
Resources stocks suffered as base metal prices fell.
Smaller miners may also have been affected by ongoing speculation the federal government would agree to concessions for its proposed resources super profits tax, Ms Chan said.
Among the major miners, Rio Tinto lost $1.76, or 2.57 per cent, to $66.66, BHP Billiton dropped 45 cents, or 1.18 per cent, to $37.65, Fortescue Metals shed 19 cents to $4.12 and Mount Gibson Iron fell by 6.5 cents to $1.55.
The major banks regained most of their early losses but still finished weaker.
National Australia Bank lost 12 cents to $23.28, Westpac shed two cents to $21.23, ANZ dropped 26 cents to $21.61 and Commonwealth ended 74 cents lower at $48.64.
One sector to buck the trend was utilities.
Origin Energy gained 18 cents to $14.94, AGL Energy added 33 cents to $14.70 and gas distributor APA Group put on four cents to $3.60.
The gains may be linked to speculation the coal seam gas sector would be a winner out of a compromise on the Resource Super Profits Tax, CMC Markets analyst David Taylor said.
“That’s more of an energy play rather than a utilities play, but there could be some companies under that utilities sector that have coal seam gas exposure which would obviously be affected by that,” he said.
Energy stocks were mixed, with Woodside Petroleum down 73 cents at $41.84, Oil Search off six cents to $5.53 and Santos up one cent at $12.60.
Gold price up
At 1635 AEST, the spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1,241.50, up US$4.45 from $US1,237.05 per fine ounce on Tuesday.
Gold stocks closed marginally lower, with Newcrest Mining down 19 cents at $35.10 and Lihir Gold down one cent lower at $4.31.
The highest traded stock by volume was Monitor Energy & Gas, with 102.7 million shares traded for $308,030.
Monitor shares were steady at 0.3 cent.
Preliminary market turnover was 2.53 billion shares worth $5.49 billion with 331 up, 878 down and 371 unchanged.