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Australian Market Tumbles

The Australian stock market is tumbling on Monday following the sharp losses on Wall Street Friday as worries about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy continued to weigh heavily on sentiment.

The Australian government has ordered operators of venues where people gather, such as pubs, cinemas, gyms and restaurants to close on Monday due to COVID-19. Several Australian states are planning to shut down more businesses, with only those deemed essential services to remain open.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 321.70 points or 6.68 percent to 4,494.90, after touching a low of 4,408.10 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 334.20 points or 6.88 percent to 4,520.10.

The big four banks are sharply lower. National Australia Bank is plunging almost 12 percent, Westpac is losing more than 11 percent, ANZ Banking is tumbling more than 10 percent and Commonwealth Bank is falling more than 9 percent.

In the oil space, Oil Search is falling almost 13 percent, Santos is tumbling almost 7 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by more than 5 percent after crude oil prices fell almost 11 percent on Friday.

Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is losing more than 7 percent, Rio Tinto is falling more than 6 percent and BHP is declining more than 1 percent.

Bucking the trend, gold miners are also higher after safe-haven gold prices rose on Friday. Newcrest Mining is gaining more than 4 percent and Evolution Mining is rising more than 3 percent.

Virgin Australia said it expects its domestic schedule to suffer a material impact due to new federal and state government travel restrictions at the weekend. The troubled airline, which has already cut domestic capacity and ceased international operations, will provide more information in the coming days. The airline's shares are tumbling more than 5 percent.

Regional Airline Rex said it will halt passenger services in all states with the exception of Queensland. The airline's shares are plunging more than 14 percent.

Betting giant Tabcorp Holdings, health insurance company NIB Holdings and property developer Stockland are among the latest companies to withdraw their earnings guidance due to the uncertainty surrounding the impact of COVID-19.

Shares of Stockland are plunging more than 17 percent, while Tabcorp is tumbling more than 14 percent and NIB Holdings is lower by more than 1 percent.

JB Hi-Fi announced a surge in sales, but withdrew its guidance. The retailer's shares are lower by almost 16 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was quoted at $0.5739, down from $0.5882 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks shook off a higher open on Friday and sank into the red as the day progressed, offsetting gains from the previous session. The early strength came on optimism that the relief and support packages announced by global central banks and several governments will help limit the impact of the virus outbreak. But stocks turned lower in afternoon trade as the virus numbers and economic backlash continued to be worrisome.

The Dow shed 913.21 points or 4.55 percent to finish at 19,173.98, while the Nasdaq sank 271.06 points or 3.79 percent to 6,879.52 and the S&P 500 lost 104.47 points or 4.34 percent to end at 2,304.92.

The major European markets closed higher on Friday, extending gains from previous session, with investors continuing to react positively to a raft of relief and support packages announced by governments and central banks from across the globe. France's CAC 40 gained 4.34 percent, Germany's DAX ended up 3.1 precent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 closed with a modest 0.3 percent gain.

Crude oil prices tanked on Friday despite the announcement of relief measures from several countries and central banks to help limit the economic impact of the coronovirus pandemic. WTI crude for April ended down $2.69, or about 11 percent, at $22.53 a barrel on expiration day.

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