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Aust shares lower over Syria worries

Trevor Chappell
AAP

The Australian share market has closed lower as increasing tensions between the US and Russia over Syria unnerve investors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 13.2 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,815.5 points while the broader All Ordinaries was down 14.4 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 5,911.4 points.

On Wall Street overnight, stocks closed lower after US President Donald Trump warned Russia of imminent military action in Syria, declaring missiles "will be coming".

Phillip Capital senior client adviser Michael Heffernan said trading on the local bourse was lacklustre, and the market had been dragged back by President Trump's comment.

"Trump has lobbed a grenade into the market and the world," Mr Heffernan said.

"It's Syria now - it's not trade, it's not tariffs."

However the US futures market was higher in afternoon trading (AEST) suggesting that the next session of trading on US markets may be positive.

On the local bourse, weakness in the heavyweight banking sector outweighed gains among some of the major miners.

Among the big four banks, National Australia Bank fell 0.5 per cent to $28.71, Commonwealth Bank lost 0.8 per cent at $73.09, Westpac retreated 0.6 per cent to $28.95, and ANZ dropped 0.3 per cent to $26.82.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton rose 0.7 per cent to $29.64, Rio Tinto added 0.3 per cent to $76.70, but Fortescue Metals lost 0.4 per cent to $4.45.

The threat of US missiles being launched against Syria pushed up oil prices overnight, with Brent crude and West Texas Intermediate oil rising to their highest levels since 2014 before tempering somewhat in later futures trade.

Locally on Thursday oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum lifted 0.1 per cent to $30.48, Santos was steady at $5.97, and Oil Search advanced 1.3 per cent to $7.59.

Among other stocks, logistics firm Brambles descended 17 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to $9.62 as it announced it will book a $US4.9 million non-cash impairment after selling its 50 per cent stake in an energy joint venture.

Bubs Australia jumped seven cents, or 9.2 per cent, to 83 cents after the baby food maker said its recent acquisition of goat milk products maker NuLac Foods had helped significantly boosted third-quarter sales.

Outdoor advertiser oOh!media fell seven cents, or 1.5 per cent, to $4.72 after having its takeover bid for Here, There & Everywhere's (HT&E) out-of-home business Adshel rejected.

Jewellery chain Michael Hill International was flat at $1.12 after saying the closure of its nine loss-making US stores will cost about $US4.5 million ($A6m) in terminated lease agreements and staff severances.

Meanwhile, higher prices for some commodities helped boost the Australian dollar against a weaker US dollar.

At 1700 AEST, the Aussie was worth 77.48 US cents, up from 77.45 US cents on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 13.2 points, or 0.23 per cent, at 5,815.5 points

* The broader All Ordinaries index was down 14.5 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 5,911.4 points

* The SPI200 futures contract was down 12 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 5,796 points

* National turnover was 3.3 billion securities traded worth $5.6 billion.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 77.48 US cents, from 77.45 on Wedneday

* 82.81 Japanese yen, from 82.92 yen

* 62.69 euro cents, from 62.59 euro cents

* 54.64 British pence, from 54.52 pence

* 105.10 NZ cents, from 105.28 cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,350.249 per fine ounce, from 1,344.30 per fine ounce on Wednesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

* CGS 4.50 per cent April 2020, 2.0286pct, from 2.0288pct, on Wednesday

* CGS 4.75pct April 2027, 2.633pct, from 2.648ppct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.325 (implying a yield of 2.675pct), from 97.310 (2.690pct) on Wednesday

* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.83 (2.17pct), from 97.82 (2.18pct).

(*Bond market closes taken at 1630 AEST previous local session; currency closes taken from 1700 AEST previous local session)