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Miners, CSL lead Australian stocks lower

Derek Rose

Australian stocks have closed lower as gains by financial and consumer staples sectors failed to offset losses among resources and health care shares.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday down 23.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 7,088.4, while the broader All Ordinaries index fell 27.3 points, or 0.38 per cent, to 7,108.6.

"It wiped out a good portion of the improvements we had yesterday," said CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian.

After "an amazing start" for 2020 with seven new record highs, the market has cooled in the last few days following coronavirus fears, Mr Daghlian said.

Still, with just one trading day left in January, the ASX200 is on pace for a 4.85 per cent gain, its best since a 5.19 per cent rise in February 2019, he noted.

Nearmap was the biggest ASX200 loser on Thursday, plummeting 29.8 per cent to a one-year low of $1.70 after the aerial mapping company issued an earnings warning, cautioning it had lost three major North American contracts.

The health care sector led decliners, falling 1.4 per cent as blood products company CSL dropped 1.8 per cent to $310.49.

Travel companies continued to decline on coronavirus fears, with Webjet down 6.9 per cent, Flight Centre dipping 2.5 per cent and Corporate Travel falling 4.8 per cent despite announcing the outbreak would only have a "minor" immediate financial impact on corporate travel given the Chinese New Year holiday.

The mining sector fell 1.0 per cent as BHP dropped 0.9 per cent to $39, Rio Tinto fell 1.2 per cent to $99.19 and South32 dropped 3.0 per cent to $2.62.

Fortescue Metals fell 2.1 per cent to $11.29 despite announcing its full year shipments would come in at the upper end of its guidance range.

Goldminer Newcrest Mining dropped 2.8 per cent after announcing that gold production in the December quarter rose eight per cent from the September quarter.

In the tech sector, Afterpay hit an all-time high of $38.36 but closed down 0.5 per cent to $37.80 after Swedish buy now, pay later fintech Klarna said it was entering the Australian market in a partnership with Commonwealth Bank.

CBA gained 1.0 per cent to $85.44, outpacing its three main rivals.

ANZ gained 0.2 per cent to $25.83, NAB was up 0.3 per cent to $25.88 and Westpac climbed 0.5 per cent to $25.31.

Insurance giant Suncorp Group dipped 0.3 per cent to $12.88 after announcing its cost for three natural hazards - the bushfires, hailstorms and heavy rain - would be no more than $300 million.

Treasury Wine Estate climbed 5.3 per cent to $13 after dropping 26 per cent on Wednesday after a profit warning.

The Australian dollar was buying 67.38 US cents, meanwhile, down from 67.70 US cents at the market close on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished down 23.1 points, or 0.33 per cent, at 7,008.4 points.

* The All Ordinaries closed down 27.3 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 7,108.6 points.

* At 1712 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up five points, or 0.07 per cent, at 6,944 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 67.38 US cents, from 67.70 US cents on Wednesday

* 73.41 Japanese yen, from 73.87 yen

* 61.19 euro cents, from 61.46 cents

* 51.77 British pence, from 51.99 pence

* 103.51 NZ cents, from 103.58 cents