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The Australian share market closed lower on Wednesday, with the materials sector heavily sold down on shifting commodity prices and expectations of a correction. The ASX200 closed down 0.5% for the second consecutive day.

A retreat in commodity prices triggered losses for BHP and RIO, down 2.9% to $30.74 and 3.5% to $78.45. Fortescue Metals dropped 3% and gold miner Newcrest (NCM) lost 0.6%. Diversified miner South32 (S32) fell by 1.5% to $3.92 despite showing a solid first half and maintaining full-year guidance for most of its businesses, except for its South African manganese production where it flagged an improvement.

A retreat in global oil prices from recent highs left local energy producers mixed, with Origin Energy up 0.4% $9.19, Woodside Petroleum down 0.5% at $33.66 and Santos 0.8% lower to $5.29.

Sirtex Medical climbed 13.9% after the cancer specialist announced a lift in expected first-half earnings and higher second-half sales. 

The big four banks were lower at the close: ANZ down 0.3% and National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank all 0.6% lower.

International Markets

Wall Street's main indexes have all risen by 1%  - with the Dow again above the 26,000 mark - as investors' expectations for higher earnings lifted stocks across sectors. 

The S&P 500 has rallied strongly in the new year, gaining 4.8% so far and posting only two sessions of losses. The Dow, after briefly hitting the 26,000 milestone on Tuesday, its fastest 1000-point rise, looks set to close above that mark for the first time.

More than three-quarters of the 36 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have topped earnings estimates, according to Thomson Reuters.

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