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ASX falls 2.1pct, wiping out 2022 gains

·4-min read

The Australian share market has suffered its worst session in two months, with brutal losses for the major miners and oil producers as China's strict COVID policies weighed on commodity prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 155.3 points or 2.1 per to 7,318 cent on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries fell by 164.2 points, or 2.1 per cent, to 7,604.

It was the worst day for the local bourse since February 24, the day Russia invaded Ukraine, and follows a rout of global markets on Friday, when the major Wall Street indexes fell by nearly three per cent.

"Obviously the (global) markets have been in turmoil while we've been on holiday, and we're playing catchup," said Julia Lee, chief investment officer with Burman Invest.

Ms Lee pinned the losses on concerns that China's zero-COVID strategy would disrupt demand for commodities. There's been panic buying in Beijing, which is mass testing its 21 million residents, amid fears the city would be plunged into a full lockdown.

Tuesday's drop put the ASX200 in negative territory for the year once again, after the index spent much of February and March climbing out of January's sharp decline. It's now down 1.7 per cent for the year.

The heavyweight materials sector was the worst hit, falling 5.1 per cent as the price of iron ore dropped to its lowest level since late February.

Fortescue Metals fell by 6.9 per cent to $19.76, BHP retreated 5.8 per cent to $45.66, Rio Tinto dipped 4.3 per cent to $108.76 and South32 dropped 7.9 per cent to $4.46.

Mining services contractor Mineral Resources fell 9.9 per cent and BlueScope Steel dropped 8.7 per cent.

Goldminers were no safe haven, with Northern Star down 4.9 per cent and Newcrest falling 2.9 per cent.

The energy sector was down 4.0 per cent after oil prices fell overnight, with Santos down 4.3 per cent and Woodside Petroleum retreating 4.6 per cent after announcing production was down slightly in the March quarter.

EML Payments plunged 38.6 per cent to a two-year low of $1.665 after slashing full-year earnings guidance by 8 per cent, with the Brisbane card payments company saying it was experiencing "operational execution issues in Europe" that it expects to continue through midyear.

Pushpay soared 22.9 per cent to $1.18 after the Auckland-based donation processor for churches said it had received unsolicited expressions of interest from third parties interested in buying the company.

Beach Energy fell 3.9 per cent after the oil producer announced that heavy rain had delayed work at its wells in South Australia's Cooper Basin, contributing to a drop in oil production for the March quarter.

Meanwhile a lack of rain was hurting earnings for United Malt Group, which said it would incur $20 million to $25 million in costs from last year's severe drought in Canada.

The world's fourth-biggest commercial maltster had been forced to import barley from Australia and Denmark to its processing plants in North America. UMG shares finished down

The big four banks were all down, with NAB dropping 1.2 per cent to $32.74, Westpac falling 1.3 per cent to $23.90, ANZ dipping 0.6 per cent to $27.62 and Commonwealth falling 0.6 per cent to $104.75.

Looking forward, Ms Lee noted that Australian inflation figures for the March quarter would be released on Wednesday, while US tech giants Microsoft and Alphabet will release quarterly earnings figures.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is also expected to increase the cash rate next week.

"All up, it looks like a pretty big end to the month," Ms Lee said.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.94 US cents at 1726 AEST, down from 73.14 US cents at Friday's close, and overnight hit a two-month low of 71.34 US cents.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished 155.3 points, or 2.08 per cent, lower to close at 7,318 on Tuesday.

* The All Ordinaries index fell 164.2 points, or 2.11 per cent, to close at 7,604.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 71.94 US cents, from 73.14 US cents when the ASX closed on Friday

* 92.04 Japanese yen, from 93.59 yen

* 67.21 Euro cents, from 67.55 cents

* 56.49 British pence, from 56.42 pence

* 108.56 NZ cents, from 109.44 NZ cents.

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