Australia Markets open in 3 hrs 17 mins

ASX suffers worst loss since October

Derek Rose
The futures market is pointing to a fall of more than one per cent for the ASX at the open

Australia's share market has been hammered for a second straight day as it emerges as one of the biggest losers from the intensifying US-China trade war.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 162.2 points, or 2.44 per cent, to 6,478 points at 1615 AEST on Tuesday, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 164.2 points, or 2.45 per cent, to 6,546.4 points.

ASX200 plunged 191 points in the first 12 minutes of trade and struggled to make up much ground throughout the day, finishing with its worst loss since a 164-point drop on October 25.

Xchainge co-founder Nick Twidale described it as "blood on the streets of the financial markets" in a morning note and predicted there could be more carnage to come.

"I think personally this could be the start of a much more serious correction," he said, predicting markets could give up as much half their gains for the year.

"Obviously it would be very painful for a lot people out there," Mr Twidale told AAP.

So far the ASX200 - despite losing 290 points, or 4.3 per cent, in just two days - is still up 14.7 per cent on the year, although it's now back at its levels from early June.

The sell-off began after the US Treasury Department said it had determined for the first time since 1994 that China was manipulating its currency.

The S&P500 plunged by 3.0 per cent, the Dow Jones by 2.9 per cent and markets across Asia were down by more than 1.0 per cent.

On the ASX, tech stocks were the worst hit, falling 3.9 per cent, followed by healthcare at 3.7 per cent.

Logistics software company WiseTech Global was the biggest loser among ASX200 components, falling 8.0 per cent to $26.95, while Afterpay Touch was down 4.9 per cent to $22.34.

All the big banks were down, with Westpac falling 2.6 per cent to $27.73, Commonwealth falling 1.7 per cent to $79.80, NAB down 2.3 per cent to $27.51 and ANZ down 2.2 per cent to $26.72.

The heavyweight mining sector was the least hit, down 1.0 per cent, with BHP falling 0.8 per cent to $37.10 and Rio Tinto down 0.1 per cent to $91.39, while Fortescue Metals rose 2.8 per cent to $7.29.

Several goldminers were down as price of the precious metal dropped against the Aussie dollar, even though gold gained in US dollar terms.

Newcrest dropped 0.9 per cent, Evolution dipped 2.9 per cent and Saracen Minerals was down 1.8 per cent.

Rural Funds Group shares crashed 41.9 per cent to a three-year low of $1.365, and were then placed in a trading halt after US short-selling group Bonitas Research accused the agricultural property group's management of running a "scam" and siphoning off cash from it via "multiple nefarious transactions".

Rural Funds Group said it was preparing a detailed response to the allegations.

The local currency was boosted by a surprise drop in New Zealand's unemployment on Tuesday morning and moved up after 12 straight days of losses.

The Aussie dollar was buying 67.88 US cents, from 67.71 US cents on Monday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 162.2 points, or 2.4 per cent, to 6,478.1.

* The All Ordinaries closed down 164.2 points, or 2.5 per cent, to 6,546.4.

* At 1630 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was down 164 points, or 2.5 per cent, to 6,406.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEST:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 67.83 US cents, from 67.71 cents on Monday

* 72.20 Japanese yen, from 71.71 yen

* 60.51 euro cents, from 60.85 cents

* 55.79 British pence, from 55.89 pence

* 103.86 NZ cents, from 103.90 cents.