The modest losses were maintained for the duration of the session, with the All Ordinaries Index (XAO) easing by just 0.4 per cent by the close. The miners were the worst performers, with the sector slumping by 1.2 per cent.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange February 21, 2012.
BHP Billiton (BHP) slipped by 1.04 per cent while the smaller Rio Tinto (RIO) dropped by 1.74 per cent. Gold stocks have done it tough this week, with the price of the precious metal slumping after reduced fears of an imminent strike on Syria by the US.BHP, RIO, Fortescue (FMG) and Newcrest (NCM) accounted for 7.5pts of the pullback today.
The big four banks lost ground, with Westpac (WBC) the worst of the majors - falling by 1.02 per cent.
This week, the energy sector slipped by 0.1 per cent, the miners jumped by 2.31 per cent, financials rose 1.57 per cent and the telcos improved by 1.57 per cent.
By the close, 1.48 billion shares changed hands, worth $3.6 billion. 398 stocks finished higher, 518 in the red and 341 ended unchanged. Solid Chinese economic news out since Monday helped lift the miners, while a diplomatic solution for the unrest in Syria seems to have become the favourable approach for now.
Looking ahead, tonight will be the key session of the week in US trade. Retail spending, business inflation and consumer confidence numbers are all scheduled for release. Spending by consumers make up around half of the US economy's growth. The more confident consumers are, the more likely (theoretically) they are to spend.
In Europe, leaders will be meeting at the ECOFIN Conference in Lithuania over the next few days. Finance ministers are expected to discuss the finer points of a euro zone banking resolution.
Next week, all the attention is going to be on the Federal Reserve's monthly meeting. The market is expecting the Fed to start tapering/reducing its US$85 billion worth of monthly stimulus. At the moment, expectations are for a US$10-$15 billion reduction in QE to start. Ultimately however, the Fed is likely to at least make a symbolic move to get markets used to the idea of tapering.
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