Despite some surprisingly good news about the March employment rate, Aussie shares mimicked last night’s session on Wall Street and sunk today.
The increase in people without jobs over March was far lower than expected given the severity of the COVID-19 crisis. However, analysts are suggesting April data will show the true blow to unemployment, and it seems investors are preparing for the worst.
Our benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index quickly dipped this morning but regained some ground over the session. When the closing bell sounded, the index was 0.92 per cent lower at 5416.3 points.
Energy stocks continued their decline as yesterday’s sudden oil price reversal kept the outlook for the sector bleak. Woodside slipped another 1.41 per cent, Santos 3.19 per cent, and Oil Search 0.38 per cent. Overall the sector dipped 1.59 per cent.
However, it was our heavily-weighed materials sector that anchored the market today. The sector has pulled off a steady rebound since its mid-March nadir, but today retreated 1.57 per cent. BHP led the decline with a 2.04 per cent loss, while Fortescue lost 1.58 per cent and Rio Tinto lost 1.37 per cent.
Not even our gold stocks were able to offset the heaviest losses from our iron-ore producers. Newcrest gave back a muted 0.1 per cent, Northern Star Resources lost 0.84 per cent, and Evolution Mining lost 1.42 per cent.
As for our other heavyweight sector, finance stocks were pulled down by our big four banks. Commonwealth Bank declined 1.3 per cent, Westpac 2.27 per cent, NAB 2.16 per cent, and ANZ 1.6 per cent. Insurance Australia Group swam against the tide and gained 3.29 per cent, but it was not enough to offset the declines from our heaviest hitters.
The health care sector, which has typically stolen the spotlight in the midst of COVID-19 woes, has been remarkably unremarkable this week so far. The sector gained 0.32 per cent today but has been mostly flat since the Thursday before the Easter long weekend. Biotech Giant CSL gained a slight 0.22 per cent today, while Cochlear lost 0.22 per cent.
As for our neighbours to the east, it was a similarly red story for Asian markets today. When the ASX closed for the day, the Asia Dow sat 1.07 per cent lower, the Nikkei 225 was 1.33 per cent lower, and the Hang Seng 0.7 per cent lower.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar is slightly lower today buying 62.77 US cents, 50.30 pence, and 11.74 South African Rand.