The Australian share market closed lower, continuing its two-day slide on the back of negative Wall Street leads. The ASX dropped like a stone at the open, falling below the key 6,000 mark with most sectors in selling territory. A bout of weaker than expected economic news also kept us underwater through the session.
As the oil price took a hit, energy stocks were the worst performers today. Utilities and miners followed. Orocobre (ASX:ORE) lost 6 per cent, Galaxy Resources (ASX:GXY) was down over 4.8 per cent, while heavyweight Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) lost 4 per cent. The property sector bucked the trend and made gains today.
At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 42.7 points lower, or 0.71 per cent lower, to finish at 5,973.
On the futures market, the SPI is 46 points lower.
The value of trades was $5.7 billion on volume of 774 million shares at the close of trade. The top three stocks by value were Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO), BHP Billiton (ASX:BHP) and Bluescope Steel (ASX:BSL).
New business spending fell in the December quarter by 0.2 per cent, while the market expected a gain of 0.9 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms. The weaker than expected result follows private capital expenditure growing in the September quarter by 1.9 per cent.
As for Australian manufacturing, the index fell 1.2 points to a reading of 57.5 in February. It does indicate further growth, but at a slower pace than in January. It’s important to remember that readings above 50 indicate expansion in activity.
Fletcher Building (ASX:FBU) was granted a waiver of the breach of covenants under its US private placement funding arrangements. The breach occurred as a result of losses that occurred (as announced on 14 February 2018). Shares in Fletcher Building (ASX:FBU) closed 1.49 per cent higher at $6.13.
One of the world’s largest explosives and blasting companies Orica (ASX:ORI) flagged that it will be impacted by a $55 million noncash tax hit after the US federal government slashed corporate taxes. Orica says that though the tax drop has a negative impact now, the ongoing tax reduction will be neutral.
The Foreign Investment review board has green lighted the US tech giant Oracle Corporation’s (NYSE:ORL) proposed takeover of Aconex (ASX:ACX). The Australian Government has no objections in terms of the construction software company being taken over by the global database platform Oracle (NYSE:ORL) via a scheme of arrangement.
And the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has flagged concerns about the proposed acquisition of Murray Goulburn’s (ASX:MGC) Koroit dairy plant in Victoria. They are worried the Saputo purchase will impact competition for farmers’ milk in the area.
Best and worst performers
The best performing sector was REITs, adding 0.42 per cent to close at 1,308.
The worst performing sector was Energy, shedding 2.17 per cent to close at 10,127 points.
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Altium (ASX:ALU), rising 2.92 per cent to close at $20.82. Shares in Saracen Mineral Holdings (ASX:SAR) and Speedcast International (ASX:SDA) followed higher.
The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Orocobre (ASX:ORE), dropping 6.12 per cent to close at $6.14. Shares in Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia (ASX:GMA) and Myer Holdings (ASX:MYR) followed lower.
Japan’s Nikkei has lost 1.59 per cent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has gained 0.23 per cent and the Shanghai Composite has gained 0.6 per cent.
Commodities and the dollar
Gold is trading at $US1,315 an ounce.
Light crude is $1.46 down at $US61.55 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 77.33 US cents.
The three most traded cryptocurrencies are trading lower.
Bitcoin has lost about 5 per cent to $10,456. Ethereum has lost about 3 per cent to $862. Ripple has fallen about 5 per cent to $0.90.