Finance: Australian shares sink as Wall Street records sharp falls; Rio Tinto, Pilbara Minerals, Woodside, Pacific Smiles, Liontown Resources, Xero, Charter Hall, ANZ


Australian shares lost ground on Thursday, as tech and real estate stocks sank following a sharp fall on Wall Street overnight.

On the benchmark S & P/ASX200 index, shares dropped 0.5 per, or 33.8 points, to 7,504.1, after reaching a fresh 10-month high in yesterday’s session. Meanwhile, the broader All Ordinaries shed a similar amount, falling to 7,727.8.

Against the greenback, the local currency finished higher to trade at US 67.51c, at the close of markets.

TMS Capital portfolio manager Ben Clark said the sell off in the local market was due to “profit taking” by traders into the end of year.

“We’re seeing locally that some of those areas that haven’t done so well this year have caught a bid,” Mr Clark said.

“Meanwhile, there’s a bit of money coming out of the areas that have so … fundies are just evening themselves out.”

Overnight, Wall Street finished sharply lower with the S & P500 diving 1.5 per cent – its biggest loss in three months.

Despite the recent resistance from Federal Reserve officials, markets are benefiting from the tailwind generated by the Fed’s recent shift towards expectation of rate cuts.

“We’ve had an extraordinarily strong November and December – it’s probably one of the strongest ‘Santa rallies’ that we’ve seen in recent years,” Mr Clark added.

Locally, nine of 11 industry sectors finished in the red, led by tech and real estate stocks, which shed 1.4 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively. Sector heavyweights Xero lost 1.9 per cent to $109.95, while Charter Hall sank 4.5 per cent to $11.79.

The materials sector also finished 0.5 per cent lower despite Rio Tinto reaching an intraday record high of $135.40. Prices for iron ore rose by 0.6 per cent to $US134.75 per tonne for the January contract on the Singapore exchange

In company news, Liontown Resources plummeted 8.3 per cent to $1.54 to become the top loser on the ASX200. The lithium miner is now facing a fresh legal challenge on royalties worth up to $533 million for its Kathleen Valley Lithium Project.

Gold Coast based Pacific Smiles Group jumped 4.9 per cent to $1.49, after it rejected a takeover bid from Genesis Capital at $1.40 per share. The dental chain sees earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between $26 to $28 million for the 2024 financial year, up from $24.1 million in 2022-23.

ANZ was flat at $25.83 even as chief executive Shayne Elliott announced that group revenue was in line with the second half of the 2023 financial year. At the firm’s AGM, held in Brisbane, Mr Elliott told shareholders that lending growth also remained strong across retail and commercial franchises.

Pilbara Minerals sank by 3.4 per cent to $3.72 after it struck a new gas supply agreement with Woodside Energy. From March next year, Woodside’s Pluto LNG plant, located in Karratha WA, will supply 3.4 terajoules of gas a day to the lithium miner over a five-year period as part of its emissions reductions efforts.

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