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Aust stocks hit four year low

17 Nov 2008 5:42 PM

SYDNEY, Nov 17 AAP - The Australian share market has closed at its lowest level in four years after a two and a half per cent fall caused by renewed worries about the economy.

The benchmark S&PASX200 index closed down 95.1 points, or 2.54 per cent, at 3,653, while the broader All Ordinaries index lost 86.5 points, or 2.32 per cent, to 3639.5, their lowest levels since September 28, 2004.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange the December share price index futures contract was 61 points lower at 3,696 on a volume of 30,665 contracts.

ABN AMRO Morgans private client adviser Bill Bishop said all sectors suffered from investor pessimism, fuelled by a weaker Wall Street on Friday night.

"I think the bad news has been more or less unending and unfortunately thathas leaked into today's market," Mr Bishop said.

"There's just a bit of constant pressure from the situation, with credit markets still well and truly shut.

"Resources are suffering somewhat ... broadly speaking the industrial stocks have all really taken a turn for the worse, just on that constant pressure.

"Pretty much every other sector has got red figures in front of it."

Among the banks, Commonwealth Bank fell 77 cents, or 2.4 per cent, to31.33, National Australia Bank lost 86 cents, or 4.35 per cent, to18.93, while ANZ dropped 54 cents, or 3.92 per cent, to13.24.

St George fell1.10, or 4.74 per cent, to $22.10 and Westpac declined 48 cents, or 2.86 per cent, to16.32.

BHP Billiton said it had no plans to cut production iron ore despite requests from some customers to defer shipments.

BHP shares lost1.30, or 4.92 per cent, to $25.10 while its takeover target Rio Tinto gained1.44, or two per cent, to $73.44.

Energy stocks were also mixed.

Woodside lost1.10 to 35.80 and Santos fell 35 cents to $13.15, while Oil Search added nine cents to5.19.

Coca-Cola Amatil shares gained1.06, or 12.85 per cent, to $9.31 after brewer Lion Nathan Ltd proposed a merger deal worth7.94 billion.

Lion Nathan shares lost 30 cents, or 3.35 per cent, to8.65.

Building materials group James Hardie NV reported a fall in first half operating profit and declined to pay an interim dividend due to uncertain conditions in the American housing market.

James Hardie shares dropped 35 cents, or 7.37 per cent, to4.40.

Shares in Macquarie Group Ltd dived2.13, or 9.37 per cent, ahead of its half year results announcement tomorrow.

Spot gold in Sydney closed atUS741.75 an ounce, up $US12.60 on Friday's local close ofUS729.15.

Gold stocks were weaker though, with Newcrest down 14 cents to20.90, Newmont off 16 cents to3.69 and Lihir Gold 8.5 cents weaker at $1.795.

The most traded stock was GPT Group, with 39.68 million units changing hands, worth40.01 million.

GPT fell 10 cents, or 8.93 per cent, to1.02.

Market turnover was 1.03 billion shares, valued at3.50 billion, with 275 stocks up, 710 down and 283 unchanged.

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