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Westpac puts the brakes on market's gains

 

A sharp fall in Westpac shares to their lowest level in almost two years is offsetting gains in most of other sectors of the share market, leaving the main indices only modestly higher.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up 0.05 per cent at 5,924.8 points at 1200 AEST, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 0.1 per cent at 6,015.3 points.

Westpac shares were down 2.7 per cent at $28.39 after investment bank UBS downgraded the bank's stock to "sell" over concerns raised about the quality of its mortgage book in documents released by the financial services royal commission.

Among other banks, ANZ was down 1.1 per cent at $26.855, National Australia Bank was down 0.9 per cent at $28.83, Commonwealth Bank was 0.5 per cent lower at $73.07, and Bank of Queensland had shed 3.9 per cent to $10.115.

Wealth manager AMP is higher after falling for eight consecutive trading sessions, up 0.1 per cent at $4.065.

The Australian Shareholders Association is calling for the resignation of AMP chairman Catherine Brenner and the appointment of new board members, in light of the company's misconduct that has been detailed at the financial services royal commission.

Energy producers are among the market's best performers following a rise in oil prices, with Origin Energy up 1.9 per cent at $9.435, Woodside Petroleum up 1.2 per cent at $32.17 and Oil Search one per cent higher at $7.89.

Miners were mixed, with Rio Tinto up 0.6 per cent at $79.96 and South32 up 2.7 per cent at $3.675, while BHP was down 0.9 per cent, at $31.00 and Fortescue Metals down 1.8 per cent at $4.49.

Shares in building products supplier Boral continue to slide after its weaker than expected trading update on Tuesday, down four per cent at $6.605.

Coles owner Wesfarmers was down 0.6 per cent at $42.62 after it reported a sharp fall in third quarter sales at its struggling Bunnings business in the UK and Ireland, while sales growth at Coles has picked up slightly.

Woolworths was up 1.3 per cent at $27.38.

ON THE ASX AT 1200 AEST:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 was up 3.2 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 5,924.8 points

* The broader All Ordinaries index was up 5.9 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 6,015.3 points

* The SPI200 futures contract was up 38 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 5,906 points

* National turnover was 564 million securities traded worth $971.3 million

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1200 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 75.79 US cents, from 75.98 US cents on Tuesday

* 82.87 Japanese yen, from 82.70 yen

* 62.24 euro cents, from 62.25 euro cents

* 54.34 British pence, from 54.54 pence

* 107.21 NZ cents, from 106.91 NZ cents

GOLD:

The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1200 AEST was $US1,323.81 per fine ounce, from $US1,326.23 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

BOND SNAPSHOT AT 1200 AEST:

* CGS 5.75 per cent May 2021, 2.2431pct, from 2.2376pct on Tuesday

* CGS 2.25pct May 2028, 2.8695pct, from 2.8396pct

Sydney Futures Exchange prices:

* June 2018 10-year bond futures contract was 97.11 (implying a yield of 2.xxxpct), from 97.145 (2.855pct) on Tuesday

* June 2018 3-year bond futures contract was 97.71 (2.xxxpct), from 97.720 (2.280pct)

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