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Meltdown worsens with 1.8pct drop for ASX

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The local stock exchange has suffered its sixth straight losing session and worst week since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 - and analysts are expecting more carnage to come.

After falling by as much as 2.7 per cent in morning trade, the ASX200 on Friday managed to claw back some of its losses in the afternoon but still finished down 116.3 points, or 1.76 per cent, at a 19-month low of 6,474.8. The broader All Ordinaries fell 1.77 per cent to 6,663.3.

The index followed last week's 4.2 per cent drop, its worst weekly loss since October 2020, with an even bigger 6.6 per cent fall. It's now down 10.2 per cent for the month, 13.0 per cent for the year and 15.2 per cent from last year's all-time high.

"We've broken some big levels in the ASX200, we broke below the bottom of its nine-month range," City Index analyst Tony Sycamore told AAP.

"My thought now from here is that this is going be an extended period of pain."

Sycamore said he expects the ASX200 to fall further, to 6,000, and that a recession in the first half of next year was "basically locked in, in my opinion" as central banks combat high inflation with economy-wrecking aggressive rate hikes.

The Bank of Japan became an outlier on Friday by sticking with its ultra-low rates, but the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank both raised them overnight.

The surprise 50 basis point rate hike in Switzerland was that country's first in nearly 15 years, while England's central bank warned that inflation could top 11 per cent by October.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver was more optimistic than Mr Sycamore about the odds of a global recession, writing that it could still be avoided, although with central banks hiking rates so aggressively the risk of it was close to 50/50.

"Either way it's still too early to say that shares have bottomed," he wrote in his weekly update.

Cryptocurrencies were also tumbling, with Bitcoin trading just a few hundred dollars above a crucial support level of US$20,000, down 5.5 per cent from Thursday and by more than 30 per cent in the past seven days.

As for the ASX, among the companies whose shares hit their lowest levels in over a year on Friday were retail banks Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and Bank of Queensland; tech companies Xero and Megaport; retailers Breville, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Kogan.com, Super Retail Group, Temple & Webster; City Chic Collective, Nick Scali, Collins Foods and Adairs; help-wanted site Seek; glovemaker Ansell; Bluescope Steel; building products companies CSR and James Hardie; and property groups Goodman, GPT and Dexus.

Airtasker, non-bank lender Pepper Money, wealth manager Magellan Global, United Malt Group and tech company Nuix all fell to all-time nadirs.

The heavyweight mining sector was the worst-performing, falling 2.8 per cent as iron ore prices retreated for a sixth straight day.

BHP dropped 3.4 per cent to $42.52, Rio Tinto fell 4.2 per cent to $107.01 and Fortescue retreated 5.3 per cent to $18.60.

Tech dropped by 2.4 per cent with Xero down by 5.6 and Afterpay owner Block falling by 7.8 per cent.

The financial sector was down by 2.2 per cent to hit its lowest level since January 2021.

CBA fell 3.6 per cent to a 14-month low of $87.26, Westpac dipped 0.7 per cent to 19-month low of $19.19, NAB dropped 1.7 per cent to an 11-month low of $25.92 and ANZ fell 1.6 per cent to a 19-month low of $21.16.

Consumer staples was the only sector to eke out gains, rising 0.6 per cent. Woolworths rebounded from its morning losses to finish up 0.2 per cent at $33.06, and its spinoff, alcohol retailer Endeavour Group, climbed 2.8 per cent to $7.40.

Goldminers were another rare bright spot on the market, with Newcrest up 3.7 per cent, Evolution adding 5.4 per cent and Northern Star advancing 5.1 per cent.

But junior miner Dacian Gold plunged by a third, to 11.5c, after announcing that significant inflationary cost pressures had forced it to suspend open pit mining at its Mt Morgans goldmine in Laverton, WA.

Buy now, pay later company Humm Group plunged 21.7 per cent to 45c after the $335 million sale of its consumer finance division to Latitude Group fell through.

Both companies said it was a mutual decision to scrap the sale given the "current major disruption in financial markets". LatitudePay operator Latitude Group was flat at $1.40.

Meanwhile the Australian dollar was buying 69.75 US cents, up from 69.57 US cents when the ASX closed on Thursday.

Bubs Australia climbed by 9.1 per cent to a two-week high of 66c after upgrading its full-year guidance on the backs of its successful emergency shipments of baby formula to the USA.

ON THE ASX:

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Friday down 116.3 points, or 1.76 per cent, to 6,474.8.

The All Ordinaries index closed down 120.4 points, or 1.77 per cent, to 6,663.3.

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

69.75 US cents, from 69.57 US cents when the ASX closed on Thursday

93.74 Japanese yen, from 93.48 yen

66.45 Euro cents, from 66.99 cents

56.91 British pence, from 57.63 pence

110.48 NZ cents, from 111.53 cents

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