Market Wrap: ASX plunges 1.3% to session low

Market Reports

The Australian share market plunged 1.3 per cent today, accelerating losses through the day to end at the session’s low. A sell-off among tech stocks gained momentum with the sector shedding more than 2 per cent by close followed by health and retailing sectors. Softness among the banks also weighed while even the defensive telco sector moved into the red by close. Among the stocks Coca-Cola Amatil Limited (ASX:CCL) ended as the worst performer and extended Friday’s 15 per cent decent following an earnings downgrade.  

Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index plunged 70 points to finish at 5,359. 
 
The value of trades was $3.82 billion on volume of 625 million shares at the close of trade. 
 
The top three stocks by value were BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX:CBA) and Westpac Banking Corporation (ASX:WBC)
 
On the futures market the SPI is pointing 76 points down.
 
Company news
 
QBE Insurance Group Limited (ASX:QBE) has confirmed it will embark upon a strategic review of its troubled US operations amid reports it could sell its mid-market US business Winterthur. CEO John Neal says the insurance company is well advanced in implementing remediation work which will allow QBE’s North Am erican business to return to profit. Shares in QBE Insurance Group dropped 3.7 per cent today to end the session at $11.98. 
 
Woolworths Limited (ASX:WOW) shopper dockets have been found to have breached an agreement with Australia’s competition watchdog to limit petrol discounts at 4 cents per litre. The Federal Court has today found the supermarket giant breached an undertaking from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission when it introduced a scheme allowing customers to increase discounts to up to 8 cents per litre. Shares in Woolworths fell 1.08 per cent today to end the session at $35.65. 
 
Shares in Westfield Group (ASX:WDC) lost 1.23 per cent after two independent experts backed the company’s proposed $70 billion restructure. KPMG and Grant Samuel & Associates have deemed the proposal fair and reasonable and in the best interests of securityholders. 
 
Shares in Equity Trustees Limited (ASX:EQT) retreated 13.32 per cent after exiting a trading halt on news the financial services group has raised $83.5 million to fund its $150 million purchase of ANZ Trustees from and ANZ Banking Group (ASX:ANZ)
 
Shares in Horizon Oil Limited (ASX:HZN) ended steady after announcing its Stanley gas condensate development project has scored the green light from the government of Papua New Guinea. 
 
Shares in Coalspur Mines Limited (ASX:CPL, TSE:CPT) rose 5.56 per cent after naming Sedgman Limited (ASX:SDM) as its preferred supplier of engineering, procurement and construction services, who will replace embattled mining services company Forge Group. 
 
Best and worst performers
 
All sectors all ended in negative territory: Back-flipping from positive territory telco services lost 2.4 points by close to finish at 1,761. The worst performing sector was health care, dropping 308 points to close at 14,012 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Western Areas Limited (ASX:WSA), rising 5.32 per cent to close at $3.96. Shares in OZ Minerals Limited (ASX:OZL) and Sigma Pharmaceuticals Limited (ASX:SIP) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Coca-Cola Amatil Limited (ASX:CCL), dropping 6.98 per cent to close at $9.06. Shares in Magellan Financial Group Limited (ASX:MFG) and Platinum Asset Management Limited (ASX:PTM) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities
 
Gold remains at a three-week high buying $US1,328 an ounce.
Light crude is $0.34 higher at $US103.74 a barrel. 

The Australian dollar 
 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.9388.