Share market tumbles as falling commodities hit banks and mining

The share market has tumbled on the last day of trade before the Easter break, as falling commodity prices hit bank and mining stocks.

Key points:

  • Major banks drag market, ANZ flags jump of at least $100 million in bad debts
  • Healthcare and utility stocks enjoy biggest gains
  • Australian dollar closes lower after the US currency rises

The All Ordinaries index dropped 1 per cent to close at 5,152 and the ASX 200 finished 1.1 per cent lower at 5,084.

The major banks were the biggest drag on the market, after ANZ and Westpac announced worsening losses in their loan books.

ANZ fared the worst, down 5.2 per cent to $24.02.

The bank flagged a jump of at least $100 million in bad debts because of its exposure to the resources sector, just a month after its most recent quarterly trading update.

The rise is understood to relate to ANZ's loans to coal miner Peabody Energy and steel producer Arrium.

ANZ said while the credit environment remained broadly stable, there were still pockets of weakness linked to low commodity prices.

Meanwhile, Westpac closed down 4.6 per cent to $30.85.

The bank said it was seeing some stress in consumer loans, mostly in the mining states of Western Australia and Queensland, with provisions for bad debts likely to rise by around $25 million.

Healthcare and utility stocks enjoy biggest gains

Resources stocks were also sold after commodity prices dropped overnight, with gold, oil and iron ore all losing ground.

Gold miners fared the worst, with St Barbara shedding 8.2 per cent to close at $2.01.

Among the heavyweight miners, Rio Tinto fell by 3.6 per cent to $42.30 and BHP Billiton lost 3.4 per cent to $17.

Elsewhere on the market, all other sectors rose, with healthcare and utility stocks enjoying the biggest gains.

The stem-cell medicine maker Mesoblast added 3.2 per cent to close at $2.56 after it was granted a new patent in the United States.

The Australian dollar closed lower, after the US currency rose on comments from a Federal Reserve official suggesting the Fed would hike interest rates more than once this year.

A short time ago it was buying 75 US cents, 67.1 euro cents, 84.5 Japanese yen and 53.2 British pence.

In commodities, spot gold was steady after overnight losses and was worth $US1,220 an ounce at close.

Oil also steadied after falling overnight with Brent crude buying $US40.44 a barrel.

Source: ABC News

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