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MELBOURNE - The Australian share market closed more than 1.5 per cent lower today, weighed down by falls in resource and energy stocks.

At the 1615 AEST close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 was down 87.4 points, or 1.72 per cent to 4980.1, while the broader All Ordinaries shed 84.4 points, or 1.65 per cent to 5041.9.

At 1615 AEST on the Sydney Futures Exchange, the September share price index contract was 93 points lower at 4990, on a volume of 27,291 contracts.

"The resource stocks are being belted again mercilessly, with the movements down in commodity prices," Austock Securities senior client adviser Michael Heffernan said.

"We've had a really down day today after the best rise we've had for months yesterday."

BHP Billiton dropped $1.55, or 4.12 per cent, to $36.05, Rio Tinto lost $2.75, or 2.49 per cent, to $107.50 and Fortescue fell 60 cents, or 8.45 per cent to $6.50.

The market got off to a poor start despite a positive lead from Wall Street overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average adding 289.78 points, or 2.58 per cent to close at 11,510.74.

The banking sector was mixed, with National Australia Bank putting on 39 cents to $25.49, the Commonwealth Bank losing $1.05 to $43.82, ANZ falling 19 cents to $17.41 and Westpac shedding 38 cents to $24.20.

ABC Learning Centres says it is still working to finalise its annual accounts and expects to release its results for fiscal 2008 by the end of the month.

The stock was placed in a trading halt on August 21 and last traded at 54 cents.

The retailers were mixed, with Harvey Norman gaining seven cents to $3.62, Woolworths falling one cent to $27.75, Wesfarmers dropping 59 cents to $31.10 and David Jones shedding 20 cents to $4.11.

Global pallet and record management firm Brambles put on nine cents to $8.28 after the company said its performance in the first two months of the 2008/09 financial year has been in line with guidance.

The media sector was mixed, with Consolidated Media Holdings gaining five cents to $3.30, News Corp adding 67 cents to $17.81, its non-voting shares putting on 65 cents to $17.31 and Fairfax steady at $2.90.

The energy sector was weaker, despite modestly higher oil prices overnight, with Woodside falling $1.74 to $56.47, Santos dropping 14 cents to $18.61 and Oil Search losing 17 cents to $5.47.

The spot price of gold was lower and at 1623 AEST was trading at US$795.95 an ounce, down US$17.25 on yesterday's local close of US$813.20 an ounce.

The gold miners were weaker, with Newcrest dropping 95 cents to $21.20, Lihir falling 10 cents to $1.96 and Newmont losing 12 cents to $4.87.

Telstra was the most traded stock on the market today, with 52.4 million shares changing hands, worth $224.06 million.

The telco gained two cents to close at $4.29.

Preliminary market turnover reached 1.26 billion, worth $5.85 billion, with 392 stocks up, 620 moving down and 322 unchanged.

- AAP