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The share market’s loss for the week briefly passed 7 per cent before a rebound in health and bank stocks helped stem the bleeding.

The S&P/ASX 200 hit a two-week low at 5101 in early trade before rebounding 110 points to 5211 mid-session, slashing its loss to 10 points or 0.2 per cent. At its lowest point this morning the index had shed 387 points or 7 per cent since Monday.

Global market sentiment soured this week as extreme moves in oil markets underlined the economic damage wreaked by COVID-19 lockdowns. Overnight, the international benchmark, Brent crude, suffered its biggest one-day fall since 1991, closing at an 18-year low. The slump came a day after storage issues in the US caused the price of West Texas crude to turn negative for the first time in history as sellers sought to avoid taking delivery.

Here, the local energy sector fell 1 per cent to its lowest level since the start of the month, but remained well above last month’s bear-market low. Oil Search shed 3 per cent, Woodside 1.3 per cent and Santos 0.3 per cent.

Bargain-hunters were encouraged by a modest rebound in US crude. West Texas Intermediate bounced $1.11 or 9.6 per cent to US$12.68 after tumbling 43.4 per cent overnight. Brent crude for June delivery declined 75 cents or 3.9 per cent to US$18.58 a barrel.

 The carnage on oil markets helped pull US stocks sharply lower for a second night. The S&P 500 gave up 87 points or 3.07 per cent. The Dow fell 634 points or 2.67 per cent to extend its two-day loss beyond 1,200 points.

Eight out of eleven Australian sectors declined this morning. Health and financial stocks fared best with rises of 1 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively. CSL steered the health sector higher, climbing 1.9 per cent. Trade in Ramsay Health Care was suspended as the private hospital operator became the latest to look to bolster its balance sheet by raising fresh capital. The company was seeking to raise $1.2 billion at $56 per share, a 12.9 discount to the last traded price of $64.29.

The big four banks shook off a mixed start to march higher. NAB gained 1.8 per cent, Westpac 0.7 per cent, CBA 1 per cent and ANZ 0.9 per cent. Macquarie Group slipped 0.2 per cent. A soft morning for resource stocks saw BHP retreat 3 per cent, Rio Tinto 1.7 per cent, Fortescue 1.9 per cent and Newcrest 0.3 per cent.  

WiseTech was the index’s best performer, rising 12.3 per cent after reaffirming its earnings and revenue guidance. Avita Health bounced 8.1 per cent a day after announcing it was switching its primary listing from Australia to the US.

Last month’s mad scramble for toilet paper and pasta helped lift retail turnover a seasonally-adjusted 8.2 per cent, according to an Australian Bureau of Statistics report this morning. The increase was the strongest recorded in the history of the survey. Sales were inflated by unprecedented demand for toilet paper, rice and pasta. The headline figure was tempered by sharp declines in cafes, restaurants and clothing stores.

China’s Shanghai Composite dipped 0.1 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.8 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 1.2 per cent. S&P 500 index futures shook off early weakness to advance nine points or 0.3 per cent.

Gold rebounded $20.10 or 1.2 per cent this morning to $US1,707.90 an ounce, reclaiming most of a $23.40 tumble overnight.

The dollar rose 0.6 per cent to 63.16 US cents.

What’s hot today and what’s not:

Hot today: Shareholders in Lithium Consolidated (ASX:LI3) saw the value of their investment more than quintuple in value after the junior explorer announced it had identified a large gold anomaly at its Warriedar project in the Murchsion region of WA. A reconnaissance mapping program identified an anomaly stretching two by five kilometres. The company intends to extend sampling and finalise targets for drilling. The share price surged 592 per cent to 9 cents before trimming its rally to 4.6 cents, a gain of 254 per cent.

Not today: Expectations for Galilee Energy’s (ASX:GLL) three-well Kumbarilla drilling program in Queensland dimmed after the explorer released disappointing results from its second well. The share price slumped 24.6 per cent to 49.5 cents on news that a preliminary evaluation of drill stem testing indicated “lower than expected productivity”. The first well produced strong gas shows. The rig will now move on to the third well location.  

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