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Blame Facebook: ASX inches lower

The ASX has closed lower and Facebook is to blame after poor earnings from its US parent company cast negativity across world markets.

Australian technology shares fell five per cent on Thursday in the fallout from Meta’s slide in fourth-quarter profit, which was caused by soaring expenses.

Some ASX technology giants had heavier falls than the average.

Afterpay owner Block plummeted by nine per cent to $145.80.

Shipping software vendor WiseTech Global lost nearly eight per cent to $42.59.

US earnings season is well under way and another tech giant, Amazon, is due to report earnings to Wall Street this week.

Investors in other ASX share categories need not be too worried, however. Most categories in the latest session fell less than one per cent.

Materials shares seemed immune to the Wall Street influence. They rose one per cent.

BHP and Fortescue Metals each gained three per cent and Rio Tinto rose two per cent after higher iron ore prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 9.7 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 7078 points.

The All Ordinaries index closed lower by 25 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 7374.6 points.

Debate about when central banks will raise interest rates in the pandemic recovery will continue in the next 24 hours when the Bank of England and European Central Bank meet.

Both regions have surging inflation caused by economic stimulus. Analysts have tipped the Bank of England as the more likely of the two to lift rates.

In Australia, the Reserve Bank on Friday will give a detailed forecast for the economy and interest rates in its quarterly monetary policy statement.

The bank kept rates at a record low 0.1 per cent on Tuesday and rejected the idea that a rate rise was coming soon.

On the ASX, Westpac revealed first-quarter earnings were higher by one per cent after strong contributions from treasury and markets divisions.

Net profit was up 80 per cent, compared with the quarterly average of the second half of the past financial year.

Westpac was best of the major banks and higher by two per cent to $21.07.

Crop and seed protection provider Nufarm soared after revealing first-quarter sales were up 36 per cent thanks to good weather and strong demand.

Sales have been strong enough to offset higher costs, and the company said full-year earnings were expected to be higher.

Nufarm was up 20 per cent to $5.59.

Sydney Airport investors have voted for a $23.6 billion takeover bid from a consortium of investors.

Airport investors other than UniSuper would receive $8.75 per security if the proposal goes ahead. UniSuper, which owns 15 per cent of the airport, will retain its stake under a new ownership.

Sydney Airport was up 0.23 per cent to $8.72.

Furniture trader Nick Scali had a drop in first-half earnings and its payout for investors.

The company had to temporarily close about half its stores due to the coronavirus and net profit was down six per cent.

Sales orders this half are up 31 per cent on the previous year.

Nick Scali was up almost one per cent to $14.54.

The Aussie dollar was buying 71.22 US cents at 1717 AEDT, lower from 71.37 US cents at Wednesday’s close.

ON THE ASX

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 9.7 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 7078 points on Thursday.

* The All Ordinaries index closed lower by 25 points, or 0.34 per cent, to 7374.6 points.

* At 1717 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was down nine points, or 0.13 per cent, at 6969 points.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.22 US cents, from 71.37 cents on Wednesday

* 81.57 Japanese yen, from 81.88 yen

* 63.04 Euro cents, from 63.31 cents

* 52.56 British pence, from 52.77 pence

* 107.56 NZ cents, from 107.53 cents.

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