asx 200 at new low as war talk takes toll

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    ASX 200 at new low as war talk takes toll
    February 12 2003

    The sharemarket's benchmark index yesterday closed at its lowest level since its inception in 2000, dragged down by a weaker banking sector.

    The index fell below last Thursday's close which took it to its lowest level since it was formed in April 2000.

    The benchmark ASX 200 index closed 11.2 points lower at 2879, while the All Ordinaries lost 10.2 points to 2860.

    Shaw Stockbroking head dealer James Spiteri said the banks were weighed down by CBA ahead of the release of its first-half results today.

    The market also remained cautious ahead of any developments in the Middle East, with a further weapons inspections in Iraq report due to go to the United Nations on Friday.

    CBA was down 36c at $25.89, ANZ gave up 3c to $16.65, Westpac lost 5c to $13.51 but NAB closed 3c higher at $30.32. AMP fell 20c, or 2.3 per cent, to $8.50.

    "People are a bit nervous ahead of this CBA result," Mr Spiteri said. "Cautiousness is well and truly evident and while there is uncertainty out there the equity market is going to continue to claw back, unfortunately," he said.

    Analysts expect CBA to unveil a flat first-half profit. But the result is expected to be marred by a write-down of up to $2 billion on its Colonial First State wealth management business.

    Resources closed mixed. BHP Billiton rose 3c to $9.23, Rio Tinto lost 21c at $32.77, WMC Resources ended steady at $3.68 and MIM fell 4c to $1.40.

    In the oil sector, Santos lost 1c to $6 while Woodside Petroleum added 30c to $11.20.

    News Corp jumped 11c to $11.01 ahead of its first-half results on Thursday. PBL fell 17c to $8.13 and Seven lost 8c to $4.20. Fairfax, which reports its first-half results today, added 3c to $2.87.

    The retail sector was also mixed with Woolworths adding 10c to $11.69, David Jones steady at $1.09 and Coles Myer down 15c to $6.01.

    Lion Nathan rose 11c to $5.43 while Foster's fell 3c to $4.37 after reporting an interim profit of $335 million, up 4 per cent.

    Paper maker PaperlinX jumped 10c to $5.11 after reporting a first-half profit of $71.5 million, up 10 per cent.

    Peter Lehmann Wines rose 1c to $3.60 after it posted a $2.9 million first-half net profit, down 13 per cent.

    Lend Lease fell 20c to $8.16. The group yesterday appointed regional chief executives for both its core divisions, as part of a new management structure.

    Gold lost its glitter overnight, with the gold price sinking $US8 to $US363.50 an ounce.

    Newcrest dropped 16c to $6.14, Newmont 13c to $4.66, Sons of Gwalia 3c to $2.09 and Lihir Gold shed 6c to $1.41.

    Wesfarmers shares plunged almost 13.5 per cent after the company said it would be difficult to achieve its original full-year budget result. The stock lost $3.75 to close at $24.20.

    "I didn't think the result was bad but obviously some of the outlook going forward is being scaled back," Mr Spiteri said.

    Leighton shares tumbled 33c to $10.19 after the contractor delivered a subdued outlook for 2002-03 and announced its departure from South America.

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