Shares fell for the fifth time in six sessions as a global sell-off continued and domestic economic data missed expectations.
Tech stocks and small caps – two proxies for risk appetite – were among the biggest falls as the ASX 200 declined 45 points or 0.7 per cent to 6395. The Small Ords had outperformed the broader index lately but this morning caught a cold, falling 1.3 per cent.
The resurgent tech sector hit a post-dot-com crash peak earlier this month but caught the wobbles as Donald Trump’s trade war dimmed the outlook for global growth stocks. The sector slid 1.2 per cent this morning as Bravura Solutions lost 4.4 per cent, Afterpay 3.4 per cent and Technology One 2.1 per cent.
Resource stocks were the biggest drag following declines in crude and base metals overnight. Rio Tinto shed 2.3 per cent and BHP 1.3 per cent. The banks were mixed, with gains in CBA, ANZ and NAB offsetting a 0.5 per cent dip in Westpac.
A tentative mid-morning recovery was quashed by a double whammy of weak economic releases. Private capital expenditure – a leading indicator of the health of the economy – declined 1.7 per cent over the first three months of the year, defying expectations of growth of around 0.5 per cent. The volatile monthly building approvals report also missed economists’ predictions with a drop of 4.7 per cent, versus an anticipated steady reading.
The prang of the day on the index was fruit producer Costa Group, whose shares dived 24.3 per cent after the company downgraded its profit guidance. A combination of poor yields, fruit fly and low prices saw the profit target slashed from an expected $73.6 million to $57-$66 million.
The rare earths sector is running hot this week after China hinted it will use its market dominance as a tool in its trade war with the U.S. Aussie producer Lynas rallied another 4 per cent this morning to its highest level in five years. The excitement filtered down to the lower reaches of the market. Junior explorer Arafura Resources jumped 16.3 per cent. Peak Resources, which has a project in Tanzania, put on 8.5 per cent.
Powdered milk manufacturer Keytone Dairy marched to a seven-month high after announcing a contract to supply Walmart-branded milk powder in China. Shares in the company spiked 18 cents or 37.5 per cent to 66 cents.
U.S. stocks logged a second night of losses as investors continued to rotate funds out of stocks into the relative security of bonds. The S&P 500 shed 0.7 per cent.
The sell-off continued this morning in Asia. China’s Shanghai Composite gave up 0.9 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.6 per cent and Japan’s Nikkei 0.9 per cent. S&P 500 futures were steady.
Turning to commodity markets, Texas crude futures edged up 29 cents or 0.5 per cent this morning to $US59.10 a barrel. Gold futures faded $4.10 or 0.3 per cent to $US1,276.90 an ounce.
On currency markets, the dollar was buying 69.2 US cents.