Australian stocks lower

Australian stocks are headed for a weaker finish, with investors unwilling to maintain the recent run of rising prices amid a range of headwinds.

Worries about Europe’s poorly performing economies and whether or not central bank stimulus will be announced next week is weighing on traders, along with falling commodity prices.

Asian markets were falling as people remembered how ineffective the action by European policymakers had been so far, CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said.

“We have essentially defied gravity the last few days despite some pullbacks in the region but are having a little bit of a reality check today,” he told AAP.

The trading range is tight among the sectors, with only telecommunication stocks up slightly and no sector more than 0.8 per cent down.

The big miners fell as the iron ore price hit $US88 a tonne and was close to five year lows.

BHP Billiton had lost 19 cents to $37.14, Rio Tinto shed 74 cents to $63.39 and Fortescue Metals had lost 11 cents to $4.20.

Qantas shares shot up after the airline unveiled a $2.8 billon full year net loss but its underlying loss was better than expected and it said the worst was behind it.

Its shares were up 8.75 cents, or seven per cent, to $1.3825.

The big banks were all lower, with NAB falling the most, down 13.5 cents to $34.665.

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