Aust shares plunge on Mideast tension, rising yields

Derek Rose |

Every sector of the ASX was down by at least one per cent at midday.
Every sector of the ASX was down by at least one per cent at midday.

The Australian share market has cratered across the board, weighed by surging bond yields and the prospect of more conflict in the Middle East.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday finished down 140 points, or 1.81 per cent, to an eight-week closing low of 7,612.5, while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 147.1 points, or 1.84 per cent, to 7,862.3.

It was the ASX200’s fourth down day in a row and second-worst drop in 13 months, just behind a 1.82 per cent drop on March 11. 

“What a day, huh,” Moomoo market analyst Jessica Amir told AAP.

“So we’re already down four per cent from our high and there’s room for us to fall further. 

“Markets don’t go up in a straight line and the technical indicators are saying we’re not done with the selling.”

Ms Amir attributed the drop to better-than-expected US retail sales data for March released overnight by the Commerce Department.

Turnover was up 0.7 per cent, compared with consensus forecasts of 0.3 per cent, adding to recent data indicating the world’s biggest economy is still strong and does not need to be propped up by rate cuts. 

The futures market gives the highest odds that the Federal Reserve will begin cutting rates in September, rather than the mid-June cuts it deemed most likely just a few weeks ago. 

That reset of expectations led to soaring bond yields, which put pressure on equities. 

Australian government three, five and 10-year yields climbed to their highest levels since December.

The United States dollar hit a five-month high against a basket of other currencies, while gold traded at $US2,371 an ounce.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reconvened his war cabinet and the country’s top general said Israel would retaliate after Iran launched a massive missile and drone barrage at the weekend.

IG market analyst Tony Sycamore called it all a “perfect storm” that caused carnage on the local bourse, overshadowing better-than-expected first-quarter gross domestic product data out of China.

Every sector of the ASX closed at least one per cent lower, with consumer discretionary falling the most – 2.4 per cent – as Wesfarmers dropped 2.3 per cent and Harvey Norman retreated 3.8 per cent.

Just a dozen companies in the ASX200 gained ground. Four were flat and the other 184 closed lower.

Star Entertainment Group was the biggest loser, falling 14.4 per cent to a fresh all-time of of 41.5c on a broker downgrade and more damning revelations at a second NSW inquiry on its suitability to hold a casino licence.

Secret emails disclosed on Monday indicated Star’s former chief executive Robbie Cooke and chair David Foster had plotted “going to war” with the regulator, while an anonymous whistleblower told the inquiry that the company’s culture was toxic.

The big four banks were deep in the red, with Westpac falling 2.3 per cent to $25.55, ANZ dropping 2.2 per cent to $28.36, CBA retreating 2.1 per cent to $112.20 and NAB falling 1.7 per cent to $33.36.

The heavyweight mining sector fell two per cent, with Rio Tinto dropping 2.9 per cent to $128.70, Fortescue falling 2.8 per cent to $25.03 and BHP retreating 1.8 per cent to $44.97.

The Australian dollar dropped to a five-month low against its surging US counterpart, buying 64.20 US cents, from 64.87 US cents at Monday’s ASX close.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Tuesday finished down 140 points, or 1.81 per cent, at 7,612.5

* The broader All Ordinaries dropped 147.1 points, or 1.84 per cent, to 7,862.3

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 64.20 US cents, from 64.87 US cents at Monday’s ASX close

* 99.13 Japanese yen, from 99.86 yen

* 60.46 Euro cents, from 60.89 Euro cents

* 51.62 British pence, from 52.01 pence

* 109.05 NZ cents, from 109.10 NZ cents

AAP