Bank and healthcare stocks lead market retreat

Australian stocks have retreated for the first time in a week-and-a-half, as a higher-than-expected inflation reading lowered the chance of another interest rate cut.

The All Ordinaries index lost 0.33 per cent to close at 5,357, while the ASX 200 index gave back 17 points to finish on 5,356.

Banks were a big drag on trade. The National Australia Bank had the biggest fall, down 1.7 per cent to $35.47.

Gold miners did much of the heavy lifting after a jump in the price of the yellow metal overnight.

Newcrest Mining added 3.6 per cent to $11.09, while smaller player Silver lake surged 12.4 per cent to 77 cents.

Elsewhere in the mining sector, heavyweight BHP Billiton added 1.2 per cent to $37.50 after yesterday’s strong production report.

Energy company AGL lost 1.8 per cent to $15.30 as it gave a soft earnings forecast at its annual general meeting.

Telstra is overhauling some of its top management as it focuses on new opportunities across Asia.

At its annual investor day, the telco signalled it is no longer focused on adding new customers after aggressively targeting customer growth in the last few years.

It will now focus on boosting “advocacy” by customers, gaining more value from its Australian business and building new businesses domestically and overseas.

Telstra shares closed up 2 cents at $5.03.

Meanwhile, figures from the Bureau of Statistics show the Consumer Price Index rose by more than expected in the September quarter, up 1.2 per cent, seasonally adjusted.

That takes the annual inflation rate to 2.2 per cent.

The result was largely driven by rising prices for petrol, travel and property rates.

And research by ratings agency Fitch shows more people are staying on top of their mortgage payments thanks to low interest rates.

Fitch says the percentage of people behind on their mortgage payments by more than 30 days fell to 1.4 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

That is down from almost 1.5 per cent in the preceding quarter.

The dollar has slipped against the greenback after rising on the inflation numbers.

At the close it was buying 96.5 US cents, 70.1 euro cents, 94 Japanese yen and 59.5 British pence.

Spot gold rose to $US1,336.60 an ounce after a softer than expected jobs report from the United States.

West Texas crude oil closed lower at $US97.62 a barrel and Tapis crude was fetching $US118.35 a barrel.

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