The Australian share market finished session lower on Friday, 19 February 2021, as profit booking continued on following a negative lead on Wall Street overnight and mixed corporate earnings results. Meanwhile, selloff pressure fuelled further after weaker-than-expected retail industry sales growth in January.
At closing bell, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 declined 92.08 points, or 1.34%, to 6,793.79. The broader All Ordinaries dropped 91.42 points, or 1.28%, to 7,064.04. The benchmark was down 0.19% for the week.
Most of sectors ended in red, with shares in big banks, miners and health, and energy sectors being notable losers.
Energy stocks tumbled on profit booking as oil prices dropped. Oil prices fell in the afternoon of Asia trading hours on Friday, as international benchmark Brent crude futures slipped 1.05% to $63.26 per barrel. U. S. crude futures dropped 1.39% to $59.68 per barrel. Woodside Petroleum shed 5.3%, while peer Santos gave up 3.4%.
Gold stocks declined after bullion prices sank to a seven-month low as rising U. S. Treasury yields eroded the bullion's appeal.
Northern Star Resources fell 2.1% to hit its lowest in over 10-1/2 months, while Newcrest Mining lost 0.5%.
Financials also fielded losses, with three of the "Big Four" banks closing in the red.
Bucking the trend, technology stocks inched higher after Morgan Stanley bumped up sector heavyweight Afterpay's price target by 25%.
Cochlear shares soared after the company said it would resume paying dividends with an interim payout of A$1.15 per share. The hearing implant maker reported an underlying first-half profit of A$125.3 million (down 6% on the prior year). The company also said its results were helped by improved surgery rates across most markets following the disruption caused by COVID-19.
QBE Insurance (QBE) ended 3.1% higher having been weaker for much of the morning. The insurer reported a significant net loss, which it had updated the market earlier in the month. Its FY20 net loss after tax was US$1.52 billion from a US$550 million profit a year ago. The reason was due to impairments including a reduction in investment income and goodwill. QBE won't pay a final dividend.
ECONOMIC NEWS: Australia's retail industry saw weaker-than-expected sales in January as a coronavirus lockdown in Brisbane kept shoppers at home. Sales rose slightly (+0.6%) in January, compared to the previous month, according to the Bureau of Statistics' preliminary estimates. However, last month's sales of A$30.54 billion were significantly higher (+10.7%) than where they were in January 2020, before the pandemic hit. Queensland sales dropped (-1.5%) as COVID-19 restrictions in Brisbane hit household goods retailing, clothing, footwear and department stores.
CURRENCY NEWS: The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7791, having swung from around $0.78 to below $0.774 so far this week.
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