After a stellar end to April, the first session of May has sent the ASX tumbling into disarray.
A tough night one Wall Street set the ASX up for a poor start to the month, and the losses only deepened as US futures slumped.
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 1.17 per cent after some worrisome quarterly reports from tech giants Apple and Amazon.
Down under, our local S&P/ASX 200 benchmark index retreated a heavy 5.01 per cent or 276.5 points to 5245.90. This marks the biggest one-day decline since the mid-March coronavirus mayhem, more-than-doubling the steepest one-day point loss over April.
While no sector closed green today, our heavyweight materials stocks were the biggest anchor on the ASX. The 20 biggest stocks by market cap in the sector all declined. BHP lost 7.76 per cent, Fortescue lost 8.19 per cent, and Rio Tinto lost 5.62 per cent.
Not even gold stocks — our safe haven, investment vaccine, and currency of last resort — could escape the mass sell-off. Newcrest Mining led the fall with a heavy 8.68 per cent decline, while Northern Star Resources lost 8.13 per cent. Evolution Mining lost 7.83 per cent and Saracen Mineral Holdings lost 8.53 per cent.
The other heavyweight sector on the ASX, the financials sector, struggled to fare much better. Among our big four, ANZ was the biggest loser with a 6.80 per cent decline. Commonwealth Bank was not far behind, retreating 6.14 per cent, while Westpac lost 5.77 per cent and NAB lost 4.83 per cent.
Interesting, a continued rebound in the price of oil wasn’t enough to save our energy stocks. Woodside still fell 5.88 per cent, Santos 7.69 per cent, and Origin Energy 5.22 per cent. Oil Search gave up 7.21 per cent.
The health care sector was among the better performers today, though its 2.77 per cent decline is certainly nothing to write home about. Biotech giant CSL declined another 3.45 per cent today, while Cochlear followed suit and lost 2.47 per cent. Fisher and Paykel, however, did its best to offset the losses as it pushed 4.90 per cent higher. Similarly, ResMed gained 3.25 per cent.
As for our eastern neighbours, it was a mixed day across Asian markets. The Asia Dow and Nikkei 225 indexes followed the example set by Wall Street and the ASX and gave up 1.94 per cent and 2.84 per cent, respectively. However, when the ASX closed for the day, the Hang Seng was higher by 0.28 per cent and the Shanghai Composite was up 1.33 per cent.
The Australian dollar is slightly lower entering the weekend, currently buying 64.61 US cents, 51.44 pence, and 12.08 South African Rand.
Today’s ups and downs
Cyber safety and grocery data optimisation specialist Family Insights Group (ASX:FAM) is the latest smiling victim of an unexplained share price surge. Shares in the company convincingly outperformed the struggling market today and closed 76.19 per cent higher, at 3.7 cents each. When asked to explain the reason for the share price run, Family Insights said it had no idea.
While it’s not hard to pick out a poorly-performing stock on a day like today, EFTPOS machine company SmartPay (ASX:SMP) had a particularly rough day. The company’s sale of its New Zealand business and assets to Verifone was torn up today after failing to satisfy important purchase conditions. The company’s share price fell 18.18 per cent to 36 cents each.