Market Wrap: Weekly plunge pushes ASX under 5,300

Market Reports

The Australian share market widened losses throughout the day and week to end under the key 5,300 level. Five straight sessions of losses shed 3 per cent off the benchmark over the week, representing the biggest weekly drop in 18 months. 
 
Today’s falls were across the board and accelerated among the banks and health, technology and energy sectors. Consumer staples and gold miners offered some support as traders turned risk averse following the Swiss Bank’s shock policy decision to remove the cap on its currency. 
 
Figures
 
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 32 points today, extending the weekly plunge of 166 points to end at 5,299. 
 
The value of trades was $4.67 billion on volume of 731 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 CSL Limited (ASX:CSL)
 
On the futures market the SPI is 34 points lower.
 
Wall Street
 
America’s major equity markets have tumbled over the trading week so far: The Dow Jones Industrial Average has plunged 2.4 per cent. The S&P 500 Index has sunk 2.6 per cent. The NASDAQ has retreated 2.9 per cent. The 100 Index has plummeted 3 per cent. 
 
Company news
 
ALS Limited (ASX:ALQ) has beaten its third quarter profit forecast by 15 per cent on the back of cost reduction initiatives. The laboratory services group generated an underlying net profit of $46 million, representing growth from the prior quarters and $6 million more than its guidance. Looking ahead the company anticipates increasing market share across all divisions despite what it describes as the challenges of current market conditions. Shares in ALS rose 2.98 per cent to end the week at $4.84. 
 
Waste management organisation Transpacific Industries Group Limited (ASX:TPI) has sweetened and lengthened its CEO employment contract. Bob Boucher’s time in the top job has been extended until mid-2018 and the new deal will also offer remuneration incentives linked to achieving strategic goals. The board says Mr Boucher’s ongoing tenure is key to completing the turnaround of the company. Shares in Transpacific Industries Group fell 1.22 per cent to end the week at $0.81. 
 
Shares in 99 Wuxian Limited (ASX:NNW) gained after spruiking successful marketing promotions across multiple channels. The Chinese focussed mobile commerce company also highlighted new business partners and higher user engagement at the end of last year. 
 
Shares in Australian Dairy Farms Group (ASX:AHF) slipped after a group controlled by a wealthy Canadian family acquired a substantial interest. The investment arm of the Desmarais family have purchased a 5.7 per cent stake in the first milk producer to list on the ASX. 
 
Best and worst performer
 
The best performing sector was consumer staples, adding 0.4 per cent to close at 9,225.
The worst performing sector was health care, losing 2.9 per cent to close at 17,005 points.
 
The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Beadell Resources Limited (ASX:BDR), rising 10.61 per cent to close at $0.36. Shares in Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX:NCM) and Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST) also closed higher.
 
The worst performing stock was Horizon Oil Limited (ASX:HZN), dropping 7.41 per cent to close at $0.13. Shares in Mineral Resources Limited (ASX:MIN) and Arrium Limited (ASX:ARI) also closed lower. 
 
Commodities
 
The price of gold is buying $US1,260 an ounce, up $US47.44 over the week. 
Light crude is $2.23 lower at $US46.73 a barrel. 
 
Currencies
 
The Australian dollar is buying $US0.8235, up $0.0094 over the week.