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ASX suffers worst day since early October

Derek Rose
The futures market is pointing to a fall for the ASX at the start of trade

The Australian share market has suffered its worst day in nearly seven weeks, with the banking and energy sectors suffering especially sharp losses.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Wednesday closed down 91.8 points, or 1.35 per cent, to 6,722.4 points, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 85.9 points, or 1.24 per cent, to 6,828.2 points.

Tech stocks were flat and consumer discretionary shares rose 0.5 per cent, but the nine other sectors were lower in the largest fall for the ASX200 since it lost 147 points on October 3.

"Trade uncertainty is creeping up again," said CommSec market analyst James Tao, who noted somewhat belligerent comments by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence involving the US trade war with China.

Just days ago it had seemed that the two sides would soon reach an interim trade deal, but "that seems to be along way away now," Mr Tao said.

The banking sector fell the most, with Westpac shares falling 3.3 per cent to a six-month low of $25.67 after the Australian financial intelligence agency accused it of breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws by failing to investigate low-value payments to Southeast Asia.

Commonwealth Bank dropped 1.3 per cent to $79.60, ANZ was down 2.1 per cent to $24.90 and NAB dropped 3.1 per cent to $26.41.

Energy shares were lower after the price of crude dropped overnight, with Santos falling 1.5 per cent, Woodside dropping 1.3 per cent and Oil Search down 1.8 per cent.

In the mining sector, BHP dropped 0.6 per cent to $37.24 and Rio Tinto dropped 0.8 per cent to $94.41 while Fortescue Metals rose 0.2 per cent to $9.31.

Goldminers were also down, with Newcrest and Evolution both falling 1.3 per cent and Northern Star down 0.3 per cent.

Saracen Minerals closed 8.9 per cent lower after trading in its shares resumed following a $701 million capital raising to fund its purchase of a 50 per cent interest in the Super Pit goldmine in WA.

Aristocrat Leisure lifted the consumer discretionary sector, rising 6.0 per cent to $33.71 after the global gambling giant lifted its full-year profit 29 per cent to $699 million.

Webjet rose 3.5 per cent to $12.88 after announcing it expected its underlying full-year earnings to rise 26 to 34 per cent to $157 million to $167 million.

Life science, commodity and industrial testing company ALS Limited gained 12.1 per cent to a more than one-year high of $9.06 after beating guidance with a $98.2 million half-year profit, up 5.3 per cent from a year ago.

The Aussie dollar is buying 68.15 US cents, from 67.98 US cents on Tuesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 91.8 points, or 1.35 per cent, to 6,722.4 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 85.8 points, or 1.24 per cent, to 6,828.3 points.

* At 1711 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up five points, or 0.07 per cent, to 6,722.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1630 AEDT

One Australian dollar buys:

* 68.15 US cents, from 67.98 US cents on Tuesday

* 73.95 Japanese yen, from 73.83 yen

* 61.55 euro cents, from 61.39 cents

* 52.80 British pence, from 52.46 pence

* 106.14 NZ cents, from 106.32 cents.