Australia markets closed

ASX plunges more than 7%, hits 3-year low

Derek Rose
Australian shares are set to plunge after the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic

The Australian share market has suffered yet another day of carnage, plunging again after US President Donald Trump suspended travel from Europe for a month to limit the coronavirus pandemic.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 closed down 421.3 points, or 7.36 per cent, at 5,304.6 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index dived 418.4 points, or 7.23 per cent, to 5,370.9.

In percentage terms it was the worst loss for the ASX200 since October 10, 2008, surpassing Monday's 7.33 per cent sell-off, which until Thursday had been the market's second-worst day ever.

The ASX has now lost 26.3 per cent of its value since hitting an all-time peak on February 20, losing over $600 billion in value and plunging to its lowest level since November 2016.

"We've undone four years of gains in three weeks," said Australian Stock Report senior adviser Tom Armstrong.

"I've never seen anything like it, except for the GFC.

"It really has smacked us incredibly hard. The only question is how low can it go."

The market lost 300 points in the afternoon, after Trump's announcement of the European travel ban.

"The whole market just did not react well to that," Mr Amstrong said.

Travel and tourism stocks were hit hard, with Webjet plunging 19.7 per cent to a nearly four-year low of $5.56, Flight Centre dropping 18.2 per cent to an eight-year low of $19.61 and Star Entertainment Group falling 15.4 per cent to a nearly six-year low of $2.70.

Mr Trump's announcement overshadowed Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier unveiling a $17.6 billion stimulus package, which the market seemed to shrug off.

Every sector was down at least four per cent with energy shares the worst hit, falling 8.2 per cent as Woodside Petroleum dropped 9.1 per cent to a 15-year low of $19.09.

The banking sector fell 8.0 per cent as ANZ, NAB and Westpac plunged to decade lows.

ANZ dropped 8.5 per cent to $18.26, NAB fell 8.3 per cent to $18.13 and Westpac plunged 8.8 per cent to $17.74.

Commonwealth Bank fell 7.9 per cent to $63.11, its lowest level since early 2013.

The mining sector dropped 7.5 per cent as BHP dropped 7.7 per cent to a three-year low of $26.33, while Rio Tinto was down 6.4 per cent to a more than one year low of $77.40.

Goldminers were no safe haven as the price of the precious metal dropped to $US1,630 an ounce, with Newcrest down 8.7 per cent and Northern Star falling 7.1 per cent.

The biggest ASX200 loser was lithium miner Pilbara Minerals, which fell 20 per cent to hit a more than four-year low of 16 cents.

Just two ASX200 stocks were in positive territory - CIMIC Group, which rose 2.2 per cent, and Pro Medicus, which was up 1.3 per cent.

The Australian dollar meanwhile was buying 64.55 US cents, down from 65.05 US cents at the market close on Wednesday.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Thursday down 421.3 points, or 7.36 per cent, at 5,304.6 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 418.4 points, or 7.23 per cent, at 5,370.9 points

* At 1712 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up eight points, or 0.15 per cent, at 5,283 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.55 US cents, from 65.04 US cents on Wednesday

* 66.95 Japanese yen, from 67.82 yen

* 66.95 euro cents, from 57.32 cents

* 50.41 British pence, from 50.30 pence

* 103.12 NZ cents, from 103.44 cents.