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ASX closes under after banks thwart morning spike

The Australian market's strong start to the weak plateaued and then weakened today despite another strong night for Wall Street. 

The ASX's slight dip, however, is the result of an unexpected unemployment drop and a strong performance from the Aussie dollar, which currently buys 68.85 US cents. While these are generally viewed as positives, Australia's reliance on exports means markets generally perform better under a weak dollar. 

Still, today's loss was modest, with the ASX 200 slipping 16.8 points or 0.25 per cent to close at 6816.3 points. The index continues to tease early December's all-time high close. 

Mining stocks stood strong against the worst of the day's losses. While BHP saw a slight dip and shaved seven cents off its share price, Rio Tinto's 1.16 per cent rise kept the sector strong. 

Meanwhile, iron-ore producer Fortescue Metals couldn't keep up its marathon going as it closed grey after nine sessions of straight gains. The company's share price passed $11 per share for the first time since 2008 just after midday.

CIMIC Group pushed the industrial sector green after landing a $150 million development contract from Rio Tinto. The engineering giant gained 3.16 per cent over the day.

Banking stocks dragged the market down today and for the first time in recent memory, Commonwealth Bank was the worst of the big four. 

After announcing a settlement with the Australian Tax Office for some outstanding GST issues, the country's biggest bank dipped 0.59 per cent. NAB lost 0.52 per cent, Westpac 0.57 per cent, and ANZ was the best of the banks with a 0.36 per cent decline.

Tech stocks were mixed with the Xero and Computershare losing 0.94 and 1.10 per cent, respectively. 

WiseTech recouped a big chunk of losses from the past from a seven-session slump earlier this month, gaining 0.26 per cent at market close. Afterpay had a choppy week but ended green today, gaining 1.7 per cent.

Health care was also mixed today. CSL closed red while Cochlear brought things back in the last five minutes of trading to gain 0.39 per cent. Ramsay Healthcare and Sonic Healthcare each gained roughly half a per cent. 

Retail stocks suffered the most today. Supermarket giant Woolworths shaved 60 cents off of its share price with a 1.59 per cent drop. Coles wasn't hit as hard but still lost 0.065 per cent. 

Retail conglomerate Wesfarmers followed suit with a 0.29 per cent drop.

International markets were mixed despite another record performance from the Dow Jones.

In Europe, London's Footsieclosed 0.44 per cent up, while Germany's DAX index lost 0.08 per cent. 

Swinging east, the Asia Dow dropped 0.22 per cent and Japan's Nikkei 225was down 0.07 per cent when the ASX closed for the weekend. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.31 per cent. 

Today's ups and downs

HGL was the best performer on the market today, gaining 42 per cent when its half-owned joint venture company Mountcaste bought uniform seller LW Reid. Mountcastle sells school hats, bags, and other uniform needs. HGL rose 42 per cent today, closing shares at 36 cents each.

Meanwhile, a day of underwhelming company updates and downgraded profit forecasts saw some heavy losses over the day. Regis Healthcare, AMA Group, and Jumbo Interactive were each stain on their respective sectors as downbeat company updates upset the market. Regis sunk 17.92 per cent, AMA 18.64 per cent, and Jumbo 14.50 per cent.

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