Australian shares drop on fears of expanded Mideast war

The local share market has dropped after Iran's reprisal drone strike on Israel, raising fears the conflict could spiral into a broader regional war.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Monday dropped 35.6 points, or 0.46 per cent, to a nearly four-week low of 7,752.5, while the broader All Ordinaries fell 40.8 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 8,009.4.

The United States was urging Israel to show restraint after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones against the Jewish state over the weekend.

Most of the barrage was intercepted but a seven-year-old girl was gravely wounded in Iran's first-ever direct assault on Israel, a retaliation for Israel's April 1 strike on Iran's consulate in Syria that killed seven Iranian officials.

"Everything has temporarily been placed on hold as the markets wake up and work out the risk of war in the Middle East," wrote analyst Kyle Rodda.

But the futures market was pointing to a positive open on Wall Street following Friday's plunge, an indication of relief that the attack wasn't worse and had yet to escalate, Mr Rodda added.

The ASX's energy and materials sectors finished slightly higher, consumer staples was flat and the ASX's other eight sectors closed lower on Monday. 

Tech was the biggest loser, dropping 1.8 per cent as NextDC fell 3.9 per cent and Life360 dipped 2.8 per cent.

The Big Four banks were mixed, with CBA dropping 1.4 per cent to $114.64 and NAB dipping 0.6 per cent to $33.93, while Westpac added 0.5 per cent to $26.16 and ANZ edged 0.2 per cent higher at $29.

In the heavyweight mining sector, Rio Tinto rose 3.6 per cent to a two-and-a-half-month high of $132.55, while BHP added 0.6 per cent to $45.77 and Fortescue was basically flat at $25.74.

Goldminers were down as the precious metal changed hands for $US2,353 an ounce, retreating from an all-time high of $US2,425 set over the weekend. 

Evolution dropped 1.3 per cent, Northern Star and Newmont both fell 0.5 per cent and Gold Road Resources subtracted 6.6 per cent to a one-week low of $1.70 after confirming it was bidding for the Greenstone Gold Mine in Canada.

Two lithium companies posted double-digit gains as their US-based projects made progress getting their required permits. 

Piedmont Lithium soared 39 per cent to a three-month high of 28.5c after receiving a mining permit for its proposed lithium project in North Carolina, while Ioneer rocketed 18 per cent to a nearly seven-month high of 23c after the Bureau of Land Management published a positive environmental impact statement about its lithium-boron project in Nevada.

In property, Scentre Group dropped 1.3 per cent to $3.16 after six people were killed and at least a dozen others wounded in a knife attack at its Westfield Bondi shopping centre in Sydney over the weekend.

Scentre Group said it was providing full assistance to NSW police and their investigation as well as making counselling and support services available to its employees, customers and business partners.

In the industrial sector, Droneshield rose 11.1 per cent to an all-time high of 95c after the Sydney-based drone-interception company reported $16.4 million in first-quarter revenues, 10 times more from a year ago, following strong orders from the US government.

The Australian dollar was back under 65 US cents for the first time in two weeks, buying 64.87 US cents, from 65.14 US cents at Friday's ASX close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Monday finished down 35.6 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 7,752.5

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 40.8 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 8,009.4


One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.87 US cents, from 65.14 US cents at Friday's ASX close

* 99.86 Japanese yen, from 99.83 yen

* 60.89 Euro cents, from 60.98 Euro cents

* 52.01 British pence, from 52.04 pence

* 109.10 NZ cents, from 109.01 NZ cents


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