The Australian sharemarket remained in negative territory in the afternoon session. Shopping centre owners, banks, energy and travel stocks weighed on the market, while miners and technology stocks helped to limit the losses. At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5 per cent or 40 points lower at 7,240.
Amid fears the new omicron Covid-19 variant could impact the global economic recovery, 9 out of 11 sectors closed in the red. Real estate investment trusts were the worst-performing sector, down 1.4 per cent, followed by energy, down 1.3 per cent, then industrials, down 1.1 per cent. The best-performing sector was materials, up 0.7 per cent.
Shopping centre owners led the losses, with Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX:URW) closing 5.6 per cent lower, Vicinity Centres (ASX:VCX) closing 4.8 per cent lower and Scentre Group (ASX:SCG) closing 3.8 per cent lower.
Travel stocks eased back its losses after a heavy start. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) closed 0.8 per cent lower and Webjet (ASX:WEB) closed 2.6 per cent lower, while Qantas (ASX:QAN) and Sydney Airport (ASX:SYD) both closed 1.8 per cent lower.
The major banks also weighed on the market, led by ANZ (ASX:ANZ) and NAB (ASX:NAB) both closing 1.2 per cent lower. Energy stocks were also heavy, with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL) closing 1.5 per cent lower.
Health stocks performed well today, except CSL (ASX:CSL), which closed 1.7 per cent lower. Meanwhile, Sonic Healthcare (ASX:SHL) and global brand Ansell (ASX:ANN) both closed 2.5 per cent higher. The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was investment advice company HUB24 (ASX:HUB), closing 4.8 per cent higher.
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Gambling giant SkyCity Entertainment (ASX:SKC) has secured a debt covenant waiver for the 31 December 2021 testing period and a variation to the debt covenants for the 30 June 2022 testing period.
Rural Funds’ (ASX:RFF) responsible entity, Rural Funds Management (RFM) has exchanged contracts for a 27,879 hectare cattle and cropping property acquisition.
Vulcan Energy (ASX:VUL) and auto giant Stellantis have signed a binding lithium hyroxide agreement to supply battery grade lithium hydroxide.
The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 179 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 37 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 177 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 33 points when the market next opens.
Best and worst performers
The best-performing sector was Materials, up 0.7 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Real Estate Investment Trusts, down 1.4 per cent.
The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was HUB24 (ASX:HUB), closing 4.8 per cent higher at $29.09. It was followed by shares in Bapcor (ASX:BAP) and Domino Pizza Enterprises (ASX:DMP).
The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX:URW), closing 6.2 per cent lower at $4.70. It was followed by shares in EML Payments (ASX:EML) and Vicinity Centres (ASX:VCX).
Japan’s Nikkei has lost 1.6 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.5 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has lost 0.04 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at US$1793.28 an ounce.
Iron ore is 3.4 per cent lower at US$96.65 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 5.4 per cent.
Light crude is trading $2.97 higher at US$71.12 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 71.39 US cents.