Shares ended slightly lower, pulled down by big slumps in Brambles and WorleyParsons in an overall lacklustre session as investors stuck to the sidelines with US markets closed today.

The ASX lost 0.2 per cent to 5795.1, with a 1.8 per cent slump in the industrial sector weighing most.

Brambles dropped nearly 10 per cent as the full extent of problems in its US business became evident and the company ditched sales and profit forecasts for the medium-term.

“Brambles is dragging everyone else today. This is because they released their actual numbers today, which is far worse than they have flagged earlier,”  said Gary Huxtable, client adviser at Atlantic Pacific Securities. “So it took investors by surprise.”

“What’s happening is that more people are now doing their shopping online with the likes of Amazon and having their orders delivered straight to their homes. And this has cut the need for pallets and storage space among retailers,” he said. “But a lot of people were surprised by the much lower number reported by Brambles.”

WorleyParsons plunged 12.8 per cent after it disclosed problems recovering debts and reported a $2.4 million first-half net loss.

Among the positive earnings reports, BlueScope Steel added 4 per cent.

Big miners BHP and Rio Tinto were down 0.6 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively, while Fortescue added 1.5 per cent.

The big banks were mostly higher apart from NAB which ended flat, as did Telstra.

February 20, 2017