Australia markets closed

ASX sinks again; Aussie hits 17-year low

Derek Rose
The Australian share market is in for another volatile day of trading

Australia's rollercoaster share market has plunged again on a raft of profit warnings, an unprecedented travel ban and cancelled flights.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 finished Wednesday down 340.2 points, or 6.43 per cent, at 4,953.2, while the broader All Ordinaries index closed down 334 points, or 6.26 per cent, at 4998.8 points.

The drop wiped out all of Tuesday's 5.83 per cent gains as skittish traders continue to sell into any rallies.

The market came within 14.4 points of dropping below Friday's low of 4,873.7, which would have set a fresh four-year low, but managed to bounce off that level.

"It's still very volatile, of course," said CommSec market analyst Steven Daghlian.

The market is now down 31.2 per cent in the past 19 trading sessions since hitting a peak February 20.

Every sector was down with energy the worst hit, sliding 10.6 per cent as the price of Brent crude dropped to $US28.50 a barrel, its lowest level since 2004.

Woodside Petroleum fell 8.8 per cent to a 16-year low of $17.23 while Santos hit a three-year low of $3.13.

Property trusts were also hammered, falling 10.3 per cent, as Westfield mall owner Scentre Group plunged 16.3 per cent to an all-time low of $1.80 despite assuring shareholders its financial position was strong and its malls would remain open.

Property developer Mirvac Group was among a string of listed companies scrapping earnings guidance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mirvac shares fell 14.8 per cent to $2.08.

The financial sector dropped 7.6 per cent as all the big banks suffered major falls ahead of an announcement by the Reserve Bank on Thursday.

The RBA is expected to cut rates again as an emergency stimulus measure, which would put further pressure on banks' profit margins.

ANZ fell 9.7 per cent to $16.62, Westpac dropped 7.8 per cent to $15.90, NAB dove 7.0 per cent to $16.01 and Commonwealth Bank dropped 5.5 per cent to $63.95.

In the tech sector, former market darling Afterpay suffered the worst losses of the day among ASX200 components.

The buy now, pay later company dropped by 33.1 per cent to $12.76, a level last seen at the start of 2019.

The mining sector was down 3.3 per cent as BHP fell 3.8 per cent to $27.14 and Rio Tinto dipped 3.7 per cent to $79.91.

Goldminers were higher however as demand for the safe haven asset pushed prices back up to over $US1,510 an ounce.

Newcrest rose 1.6 per cent, Evolution gained 8.8 per cent and Northern Star climbed 7.8 per cent.

A few other companies eked out gains, with ResMed up 7.7 per cent to $25 and Fisher & Paykel Health Care up 0.1 per cent to $26.

Overall though 90 per cent of companies lost ground, Mr Daghlian said.

"It's a sea of red," he said.

Meanwhile, the Aussie dollar dropped below 60 US cents for the first time since April 2003, hitting a low of 59.82 cents.

It has dropped seven US cents over the past eight days, losing ground each day.

At 1715 AEDT the Aussie was buying just 59.98 US cents, from 60.86 US cents as the market closed on Tuesday.

"We think there's even the possibility the Aussie goes a bit lower from here," Mr Daghlian said.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Wednesday down 340.2 points, or 6.43 per cent, at 4,953.2 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 334 points, or 6.26 per cent, at 4,998.8 points

* At 1725 AEDT the SPI200 futures index was down 32 points, or 0.65 per cent, at 4,878 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 59.98 US cents, from 60.90 US cents on Tuesday

* 64.12 Japanese yen, from 64.81 yen

* 54.45 euro cents, from 54.53 cents

* 49.58 British pence, from 49.76 pence

* 100.87 NZ cents, from 101.05 cents.