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ASX suffers first loss in five days

Derek Rose
The futures market is pointing to a fall for the ASX at the start of trading

The Australian share market has finished lower, led by losses in the health care and consumer discretionary sectors.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Tuesday down 21.8 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6,568.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 22 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6,648.1 points.

The loss was the ASX's first in five days.

"We've had a relatively good run after an awful start to August," said CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian.

Markets in the US, Europe and Asia were also all lower.

"This is the buildup of geopolitical risks at the moment," Mr Daghlian said, mentioning US-China trade, Brexit, a no-confidence vote in Italy and protests in Hong Kong as among the concerns.

The usual safe-haven of gold moved higher, hitting a six-year high of $US1,523 an ounce, or an all-time high of $2,254 an ounce in Aussie dollar terms.

Gold miners Northern Star, Evolution and St Barbara were all up between and 1.6 and 2.1 per cent.

Iron ore futures were up 0.5 per cent, sending the fourth largest producer in the world, Fortescue Metals, up 3.6 per cent to $7.22.

Diversified mining giant BHP was flat at $37.01 and Rio Tinto gained 0.6 per cent to $85.80.

Lithium miner Orocobre was the worst performer among the ASX200, down 6.4 per cent on top of Monday's 6.6 per cent drop, which Mr Daghlian attributed to concerns about a global oversupply of lithium.

In the health care sector, heavyweight CSL lost 1.5 per cent to $219.50 ahead of its earnings results, while Cochlear dropped 3.7 per cent to $203.37.

Consumer discretionary stocks were down after NAB's monthly business confidence survey found recession-like levels in the retail sector had persisted from June into July.

Kmart and Target owner Wesfarmers was down 1.2 per cent to $38.66.

In the energy sector, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search were down between 0.6 and one per cent as the price of Brent crude dropped nearly half a per cent to $US58.

The big four banks were all down, with Commonwealth Bank falling 0.6 per cent to $79.46, Westpac down 0.3 per cent to $28.34, NAB down 0.3 per cent to $27.66 and ANZ down 0.6 per cent to $27.01.

Magellan Financial Group shares were in a trading halt at $60 after announcing it would raise $275 million to launch a new ASX-listed investment trust.

Investment manager Challenger Limited was up 2.5 per cent to $6.66 after its 4.6 per cent drop in profit beat analysts' expectations.

The Aussie dollar is buying 67.61 US cents, from 67.83 US cents on Monday.

Looking forward, Australian wage growth will be reported on Wednesday, while CSL, Computershare, Vicinity Centres and Here There & Everywhere are among the companies that will report earnings.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 21.8 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6,568.5.

* The All Ordinaries closed down 22 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 6,648.1.

* At 1630 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down 40 points, or 0.61 per cent, to 6,492.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 67.61 US cents, from 67.83 cents on Monday

* 71.15 Japanese yen, from 71.53 yen

* 60.39 euro cents, from 60.59 cents

* 56.10 British pence, from 56.25 pence

* 104.81 NZ cents, from 104.93 cents