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AUSTRALIAN STOCKS STALL: What you need to know

Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic stops the ball during a Melbourne Victory training session in Melbourne. Michael Dodge/Getty Images

The Australian market slipped today.

Here’s today’s scoreboard:

  • S&P ASX 200: 4,979.60 -21.62 -0.43%
  • All Ordinaries: 5,039.10 -17.46 -0.35%
  • AUD/USD: 0.7230 +0.0003 +0.04%

The ASX fell below the key 5000 point support level as Australian stocks dropped back in to negative territory again, ignoring a rise on Wall Street where the S&P 500 closed 1.5% higher.

The local market is still ahead this week by 0.5% but down almost 6% from the start of the year.

The major banks accounted for most of the fall today, with Westpac dropping below $30 to $29.65, down 1.5%. The Commonwealth lost 1.2% to $73.28.

Among companies announcing results:

    QBE Insurance’s full year profit margin hit 9%, up from 8.4%, but its gross premiums were down 7% to $US14.78 billion and profits dropped 7% to $US687 million. A rise in the dividend to 30 Australian cents a share, up by 36%, helped push the share price more than 8% higher to $11.27.

    Caltex’s profit jumped to $522.6 million, up from $22.7 million, but revenue dropped 17% to $20.03 billion. Its shares closed down more than 1% to $35.34.

    Westfield operator Scentre Group posted a 58.9% drop in full year profit to $2.71 billion for the full year. Its shares lost almost 2% to $4.47.

    Cleaning and catering company Spotless Group, whose profit dropped 20% to $48 million as per guidance, was up almost 9% to $1.21.

The top stories Tuesday:

1. Dividends shrink. BHP posted a massive half year loss of $US5.669 billion, the big miner’s first in 16 years, cuts its dividend by more than half and reorganised its management to create a leaner and more agile business. Also read: BHP’s new management team. BHP shares closed 2.6% higher at $17.63.

2. The national airline flies higher. Qantas posted a 239% increase in half year profit to $688 million, the high end of Qantas’ own expectations. Also read: Free wi-fi is coming to Qantas domestic flights next year. Qantas shares closed down 5% to $3.79.

3. A growth story. Freelancer posted a 48% rise in half year revenue to $38.6 million as the number of users and jobs at the global crowdsourcing marketplace kept growing. Freelancer shares were up almost 10% to $1.495.

4. More debt. Australia’s love affair with mortgage debt continued to march ahead in 2015, according to the latest data from banking regulator APRA.

5. The battle for Asciano. Qube and Brookfield Infrastructure are looking at carving up the Asciano freight business between them. Qube shares gained almost 10% to close at $2.21.

6. Rivers is still a drag. Specialty Fashion, which runs a string of stores including Katies and City Chic, posted a 50.6% rise in half year profit to $8.81 million. Its shares added more than 15% to close at $0.60.

7. Good news, share fall. iSentia, the market leader in media monitoring, posted a 6.8% rise in half year profit to $10.268 million. iSentia closed down more than 13% to $3.80.

8. Kiwi dreaming. There’s another way for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens, and it’s easier than you think.

9. Feet up or head down? What 36 Australian CEOs do when they get home.

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