Australian shares down on uncertain US

Australian shares were lower at midday following the weak pre-weekend finish on Wall Street where sentiment remains gripped by uncertainty, particularly in front of the US presidential election.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was down 36.6 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5827.9 points at 1211 AEST on Monday.

The All Ordinaries index fell 38 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 6019.6.

Market sectors were generally leaning to the downside, although health care shares bucked the trend, rising 0.7 per cent.

Market heavyweight CSL was up 0.6 per cent at $284.42.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Sunday the government was providing almost $6 million in addition research and development funding for three Australian COVID-19 vaccines – two at the University of Melbourne and the other at the University of Sydney.

Energy stocks also firmed 0.4 per cent.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor is due to address the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday to discuss the government’s technology-led approach to create affordable and reliable energy.

However, miners and banks were lower and key drivers of the overall negative tone.

BHP was down 1.0 per cent at $37.42 and Rio Tinto was off 1.1 per cent at $99.48.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth was 0.9 per cent lower at 63.82, ANZ was down 1.4 per cent at $16.84, NAB declined 1.0 per cent to $17.12, and Westpac fell 0.7 per cent to $16.53.

Wall Street succumbed to another weak session on Friday, led again by a further sell-off in technology companies.

IG Markets market analyst Kyle Rodda said market participants are attempting to position for an increasingly risky end to 2020. 

“The list of concerns is long, with each adding a layer of uncertainty to market fundamentals,” Mr Rodda said.

“The US election is shaping as the biggest risk-factor of all, with the stock market seemingly positioning for a change in president, and the heightened potential that the election result could end up being contested in the courts.”

The US S&P 500 fell 37.54 points, or 1.1 per cent to 3319.47 on Friday, marking the first three-week losing streak since October 2019.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 244.56 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 27,657.42 and the Nasdaq composite shed 116.99 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 10,793.28.

The Aussie dollar was buying 73.11 US cents at 12.11 AEST, down slightly from 73.15 US cents at the close on Friday.

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