Three of the big four banks hit multi-month lows as the share market suffered a second day of heavy losses.
The ASX 200 slumped 67 points or 1 per cent to a near-three-week low. The index has given up more than 170 points in two brutal sessions since the financial intelligence agency Austrac accused Westpac of breaching legislation designed to defeat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The mood on global markets soured further this morning after US President Donald Trump told reporters China “isn’t stepping up to the level we want” in trade negotiations. S&P 500 index futures slid 16 points or 0.5 per cent. The benchmark US index finished 12 points or 0.38 per cent in the red overnight after Reuters reported a much-anticipated deal between China and the US may not happen this year.
Westpac dived more than 3 per cent to its weakest level since February before paring its loss to 2.8 per cent. CEO Brian Hartzer vowed to clean up the bank’s procedures as analysts at Bell Potter downgraded their target for the stock, warning of significant brand damage and a possible capital raising.
ANZ slipped 0.8 per cent to a ten-month low. NAB hit a level last seen in May, losing 1.2 per cent. CBA fared best, restricting its loss to 0.3 per cent and holding well above this month’s low.
Trade-sensitive mining stocks deteriorated as the session wore on. BHP was lately down 2 per cent, Rio Tinto 1.5 per cent and Fortescue 2.7 per cent.
Tech stocks tend to wax and wane with global risk appetite. The local sector followed the Nasdaq lower this morning. Data centre operator Nextdc shed 5 per cent following a broker downgrade from Ord Minnett. Afterpay lost 3.2 per cent and Altium 1.9 per cent. Cloud solutions company rhipe tumbled 11.3 per cent despite reaffirming earnings guidance at today’s AGM.
Healthcare company Medical Developments hit a four-month peak after announcing progress in getting its painkiller Penthrox approved for sale in China. Titomic jumped 15.2 per cent after announcing it had manufactured a 5.5 metre long rocket out of titanium using its digital manufacturing system.
At the speculative end of the market, yesterday’s 500 per cent gainer, miner Metalstech, retreated 16.7 per cent.
What’s hot today and what’s not:
Hot today: diversified miner MRG Metals briefly surged more than 50 per cent on positive assay results from its Koko Massava mineral sands project in Mozambique. High-grade assays increased the project size beyond twenty square kilometres, with mineralisation still open in all directions. Chairman Andrew Van Der Zwan hailed the results as “outstanding”. The share price charged from eight-tenths of a cent to 1.3 cents before easing to 1.1 cents, a gain of 37.5 per cent.
Not today: profits at the fast-moving, speculative end of the market often depend on quick assessments of company announcements and fast fingers. Those who jumped on Metalstech early in its run yesterday enjoyed gains of several hundred per cent. Alas, the same quick response delivered a very different outcome for those who skim-read an announcement from Vision Tech and held the shares overnight in the belief the company had gained approval from US regulators for a contact lens. The share price slumped 19.1 per cent this morning after it dawned on some buyers the contact lens mentioned in the release was manufactured by a rival.
Asian markets flashed red. China’s Shanghai Composite fell 0.4 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.7 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 1.5 per cent.
Brent crude futures faded 27 cents or 0.4 per cent this morning to $US62.13 a barrel. Gold edged up $1 or 0.1 per cent to $US1,475.20 an ounce.
The dollar declined a fifth of a cent to 67.91 US cents.