23/01/2009 - 14:37

Market battered, slumps 4% at close

23/01/2009 - 14:37

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The Australian share market slumped to a five-year low as bank and resource stocks were weighed down by continuing concern about the health of the global economy following the release of economic figures from Asia.

Market battered, slumps 4% at close

The Australian share market slumped to a five-year low as bank and resource stocks were weighed down by continuing concern about the health of the global economy following the release of economic figures from Asia.

At the 1615 AEDT close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 144.1 points, or 4.13 per cent, at 3,3342.7 - its lowest close since February 2004 when the index finished at 3,333.7.

The broader All Ordinaries index fell 131.6 points, or 3.83 per cent, to 3,300.3 - its lowest close since early February when the index closed at 3274.9 points.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the March share price index futures contract was 141 points lower at 3,353 on a volume of 14,180 contracts, according to preliminary calculations.

Analysts said continuing unease over the health of overseas banks weighed on local banks and the resources sector was hit heavily by concerns over the slowdown in Australia's major export partners - Japan, China and South Korea as well as lower base metal prices.

CMC Markets analyst David Taylor said local trading started poorly on Friday following a negative lead from United States markets and more bad news on the US economy.

"Again, the economic numbers out of the US last night - housing figures and jobless figures - were all disappointing," Mr Taylor said.

"We've got more bad news out of their banking sector. The banks were sold off last night, and that's flowed on to our market.

"Base metals prices were down.

"Just about everything that could have been down was down, in terms of what effects our market."

Mr Taylor said disappointing news from investment firm Babcock & Brown may also have added to the general pessimism in the local financial sector.

In the resources sector, global miner BHP Billiton fell $1.69, or 5.8 per cent, to $27.45 while rival Rio Tinto dumped 74 cents to $38.06.

Oil and gas producer Santos was off 60 cents to $13.40 as it said it would either match or fall short of last year's total production, in 2009.

Woodside Petroleum was down $1.61 at $33.15.

Among the major banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was $1.53, or 5.98 per cent, lower at $24.07 as the bank suffered an acceleration of outflows in its funds under management during the December quarter.

National Australia Bank was off $1.17, or 6.46 per cent, at $16.94; ANZ declined 94 cents, or 7.23 per cent, to $12.06; and Westpac lost 92 cents, or 5.93 per cent, to $14.60.

Elsewhere in the financial sector, Babcock & Brown Ltd remained in a trading halt after it said there would be nothing left for shareholders after its lenders take their cut under a plan the debt-laden investment firm is discussing with its bankers. Babcock & Brown last traded at 32.5 cents.

On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index feel 105.3 points, or 1.28 per cent, to 8,122.8.

In the gold sector, Newmont was 14 cents higher at $6.18, Newcrest sagged $1.33 to $30.57 and Lihir slipped three cents to $2.92.

The price of gold in Sydney at 1642 AEDT was $US856.80 per fine ounce, up $US3.90 on yesterday's close of $852.90.

Telco Telstra was six cents richer at $3.64 and Optus-owner Singapore Telecommunications added two cents to $2.60.

In the media sector, News Corp retreated 99 cents to $11.79 and its non-voting scrip declined 89 cents to $10.79.

Consolidated Media surrendered 6.5 cents to $1.75 and Fairfax was 8.5 cents weaker at $1.265.

In the retail sector, Woolworths worsened 69 cents to $25.40.

Wesfarmers, which owns Coles, was still in a trading halt while it undertook a $2.8 billion capital raising, having last traded at $16.83.

Among other stocks, Macquarie Airports was down nine cents to $2.07 after Sydney Airport, in which Macquarie Airports has a 72 per cent interest, said it had boosted full-year earnings for calendar year 2008 by nearly seven per cent.

Sims Metal Management plunged $3.82, or 20.52 per cent, to $14.80 after the company cut its half year profit guidance due to weaker stainless and titanium markets.

Commonwealth Property Office Fund (CPA) shed eight cents to 82 cents after it successfully completed a $192 million institutional placement at 80 cents per unit.

The top-traded stock by volume was Valad Property Group, with 68.6 million shares worth $4.18 million changing hands.

Valad was 3.7 cents lower at 4.7 cents.

Preliminary national turnover was 1.14 billion shares worth $3.38 billion. with 229 stocks up, 652 down and 260 unchanged.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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