The Australian share market finished session lower on Monday, 18 November 2019, snapping two days of winning steak, as investors elected to book recent gains amid lack of concrete signs of progress in the Sino-U. S. trade negotiations. At closing bell, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index declined 26.92 points, or 0.4%, to 6,766.80, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 27.23 points, or 0.39%, to 6,871.70.
Doubts about the trade talks emerged as neither side has provided concrete details about headway in their trade talks. On Saturday, Chinese state media said the two sides had "constructive talks" on trade that included Vice Premier Liu He, U. S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. That came after White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said late last week the two economic powerhouses were getting close to a deal. US China trade and technology negotiations will remain front of mind this week.
So far, a 'phase one' trade deal remains elusive.
Market is also awaiting minutes from the central bank, due on Tuesday, for any signs of a pause to its rate reduction. The central bank decided to keep its policy interest rate unchanged in November, but has indicated it is open to further easing.
Gold-related stocks ended lower, dented by a decline in bullion prices, with Saracen Mineral Holdings down after the gold miner offered to buy Canadian-listed Barrick Gold Corp's 50% stake in the Super Pit gold mine in Western Australia for A$750 million.
Healthcare stocks retreated after two sessions of strong gains, dragged lower by losses in index heavyweight CSL Ltd.
Financial stocks shed previous session's gains, with the 'Big Four' lenders ending in negative territory. National Australia Bank, the country's third-largest lender, is looking to raise A$1.4 billion through the issue of medium-term notes.
BlueScope (BSL) was down after the group received two broker downgrades today. Both are cautious about the recent 8-10% surge in steel prices since late October. BSL shares have outperformed the broader market by ~7% Year-to-Date.
Smartgroup (SIQ) was down 16% following an earnings update and the resignation of its long time CEO (appointed in 2002). The salary packaging company expects NPAT ~$81m due in February which is largely in-line with the prior year's result.
Aristocrat Leisure (ALL) was up by 2.3% after a major broker said it anticipates the poker machine maker's shares to lift by as much as 20% from current prices.
Appen (APX) gained 10% after the language technology company upgraded its FY19 earnings guidance thanks to a bigger lift in revenues. APX now expects to make between A$96-A$99m in EBITDA, compared to its prior forecast of A$85-A$90m.
CURRENCY NEWS: The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in broader risk appetite, skidded against greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6811 after declining from highs above $0.684 last week.
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