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Aust shares dive again amid virus fears

Derek Rose
Every sector of the ASX was lower with energy the worst hit, falling 3.4 per cent

The Australian share market has closed sharply lower for a third straight day following a sell-off in the last 90 minutes of trade, amid fears of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the US and China.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index closed on Monday at the lowest point of the day, down 128 points, or 2.19 per cent, at a two-week low of 5,719.8 points, while the All Ordinaries index fell 129.9 points, or 2.18 per cent, at 5,830.

CommSec market analyst James Tao said that the spike in cases in Beijing and several US states had soured hopes for a quick global recovery from the pandemic and associated lockdowns.

"Those particular facts can turn rather quickly, and that's what we've seen in the last couple of days," Mr Tao said.

The ASX200 has lost 428.6 points since Wednesday's close, or 6.9 per cent, putting it back to its lowest closing level since May 25.

US share price futures are pointing to a 900-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average when Wall Street reopens later on Monday night were responsible for the final dive, Mr Tao said.

Every sector was lower on Monday with energy stocks the worst hit, collectively down 3.4 per cent as Woodside, Oil Search, Santos and Beach Energy fell between 3.3 and 4.5 per cent.

All the banks were lower with ANZ dropping 2.7 per cent to $18.41, NAB retreating 2.6 per cent to $18.10, Westpac down 2.9 per cent to $17.38 and CBA dipping 1.5 per cent to $66.30.

In the heavyweight mining sector, BHP dropped 2.1 per cent to $35.25, Rio Tinto fell 1.0 per cent to $96.87 and Fortescue Metals dipped 3.4 per cent to $14.30.

Goldminers fell as well, with Newcrest down 0.9 per cent, Evolution falling 2.2 per cent and Northern Star down 2.9 per cent.

"There's plenty of red across the market, and pockets of improvement, but it's few and far between," Mr Tao said.

Among those pockets were Healius, which gained 19.0 per cent to $3.01 after agreeing to sell off its chain of medical centres and dental clinics to Melbourne-based private equity group BGH Capital for $500 million.

Also, Boral gained 1.7 per cent to $3.54 after appointing former Adelaide Brighton board member Zlatko Todorcevski as chief executive.

City Chic Collective was another rare winner, rising 5.9 per cent to $2.71 after finalising negotiations with landlords on rent reductions following the lockdowns.

The plus-size women's retailer has decided to close 14 holdover stores where it couldn't come to terms with landlords but its other 92 stores across Australia and New Zealand have now reopened.

Super Retail Group was in a trading halt after announcing a $203 equity raising at a nearly 8.0 per cent discount to Friday's closing price.

Ardent Leisure finished down 7.1 per cent to 45.5 cents after agreeing to sell nearly a quarter stake in its US-based chain of bowling and family entertainment arcades to Redbird Capital for around $117 million.

Jumbo Interactive was in a trading halt pending an announcement about its re-seller operations in WA.

The Australian dollar meanwhile was buying 67.96 US cents, down from 68.61 US cents on Friday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Monday closed down 128 points, or 2.19 per cent, at 5,719.8 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 129.9 points, or 2.18 per cent, at 5,830 points

* At 1746 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was up nine points, or 0.16 per cent, at 5,745 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 67.96 US cents, from 68.61 US cents on Friday

* 72.96 Japanese yen, from 73.68 yen

* 60.43 euro cents, from 60.81 cents

* 54.36 British pence, from 54.60 pence

* 105.85 NZ cents, from 106.66 cents.