Australian share market closes lower with steep losses in energy and mining

The share market has continued its losing streak for 2016, erasing some healthy early gains as tumbling commodity prices drove steep losses for energy and mining stocks.

China set a steady rate for its currency for the third day in a row but that failed to dent investor concerns about officials' grip on the economy.

After rising as much as 1 per cent in early trading, Australian stocks retreated midway through the session.

The All Ordinaries index lost 0.2 per cent to close at 4,982.

The ASX 200 fell by a 0.1 per cent to finish on 4,925.

Energy stocks were punished after oil prices dropped to a 12-year-low.

Beach Energy shed 10.5 per cent to 39 cents and the oil and gas producer Santos shed 8.1 per cent to $2.95.

And Whitehaven Coal shares fell by 5.7 per cent to 59 cents after the miner reported a more than doubling of coal production for the December quarter.

The broader mining sector also tumbled after the price of iron ore dropped another 1.5 per cent to $40.90.

BHP Billiton shed another 3.5 per cent to close at $15.01. Rival company Rio Tinto lost 3.3 per cent to $39.15.

Telecommunications stocks best performers

Shares in the iron ore producer Gindalbie Metals slumped 57.1 per cent to close just shy of one cent.

Gindalbie has warned investors it may not be able to continue over concerns its Chinese joint venture partner Ansteel might withdraw its funding for their Karara project in Western Australia.

Telecommunications stocks were the best performers — Telstra added 1.1 per cent to $5.37.

And bank stocks underpinned the early gains — the Commonwealth Bank fared the best of the big four, adding 1 per cent to $79.39.

ANZ fared the worst, down 0.4 per cent to $25.05.

The dollar was lower against most major counterparts.

At approximately 5:00pm (AEDT), it was buying $US69.80. It was also fetching 64.1 euro cents, 82 Japanese yen and 48.1 British pence.

Spot gold was lower at $US1,096 an ounce.

West Texas crude has dropped to $US31.37 a barrel and Tapis crude is down to $US31.83 a barrel.

Source: ABC News

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