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After shaking off coronavirus woes with a nervous smile for the past week, Aussie stocks came back down to earth today following a sad night on Wall Street.

With the COVID-19 death toll rising, investors took to the hills again as the Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 4.44 per cent or 973.65 points.

The ASX opened weak in response to the US sell-off, exacerbated by a bleak unemployment outlook in the States and down under.

Our benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index quickly gave up all of yesterday’s gains in the first 10 minutes of trade. Come market close, however, the index had pared back the worst of its losses and sat just 1.98 per cent down at 5154.30 points.

Today, it was the financials sector that dragged stocks down. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand banned its country’s central banks from paying out dividends today. The decision was made to help stabilise the New Zealand economy as the coronavirus wreaks havoc. The dividend freeze follows a similar decision in the UK last week.

With central banks across the globe adopting the no-dividends-until-this-is-over policy, local investors are worried our big four will suffer the same fate at the hands of the RBA.

Commonwealth Bank shed 3.82 per cent today, Westpac 4.31 per cent, NAB 5.6 per cent, and ANZ 5.28 per cent. Macquarie Group declined 1.43 per cent.

Despite Newcrest Mining’s best efforts, the materials sector couldn’t escape the red today. Newcrest’s 4.02 per cent gain was offset by BHP’s 1.26 per cent loss. Rio Tinto lost 1.13 per cent, and Fortescue lost 3.48 per cent.

Tech stocks pulled things lower as Xero lost 5.35 per cent, Afterpay 2.47 per cent, and WiseTech 5.79 per cent.

Nevertheless, continued stability in the price of oil pushed our energy stocks into green territory. While Woodside lost a slight 0.05 per cent, Origin Energy and Santos gained 3.26 per cent and 5.87 per cent, respectively. Caltex missed out and declined 1.12 per cent.

Our supermarket giants were mixed today. Woolworths lost 0.67 per cent, Coles gained 1.39 per cent, and Metcash lost 4.75 per cent.

Shopping centre operators, however, couldn’t keep up yesterday’s rebound. Scentre Group surrendered 3.13 per cent today, Mirvac Group 4.07 per cent, and Vicinity Centres 5.63 per cent.

Asian markets were mixed yet again with all major indexes red bar the Shanghai Composite. When the ASX closed, the Asia Dow was down 0.97 per cent, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.72 per cent, and the Hang Seng was down 0.09 per cent. Meanwhile, Shanghai’s benchmark index was up 0.33 per cent.

The Aussie dollar is slightly stronger today, currently buying 60.8 US cents, 49.07 pence, and 11.07 South African Rand.

Today’s ups and downs

Cancer detection specialist Rhythm Biosciences (ASX:RHY) almost doubled in value today after validating its lead biomarkers for its colorectal cancer detection test. ColoSTAT is a minimally-invasive blood test designed to differentiate cancerous blood from healthy blood. Shares in RHY soared 74.55 per cent today to 9.6 cents each.

Webjet (ASX:WEB) chopped off another quarter of its share price today on the back of yesterday’s massively-discounted capital raise. When the raise was announced, shares had last closed for $3.76 each. The new shares in the $275 million capital raise, however, are priced at just $1.70 — a discount of more than half. Today, shares declined 26.06 per cent to close worth $2.80 each.

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