Market Wrap: ASX slumps on EU turmoil

Market Reports

The Australian stock market has fallen 2.3 per cent as turmoil in Europe hits global shares. The banks and miners were hardest hit.

The S&P/ASX200 index slumped 102 points to finish at 4,244. On the futures market, the SPI is 74 points weaker.

Economic news

Unemployment fell to a seasonally adjusted 5.2 per cent in October from 5.3 per cent the month before. The number of employed rose 10,100. Economists had expected an unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent.

And compared with a year earlier, Chinese export growth slowed, while import growth accelerated. Exports rose 15.9 per cent, and imports rose 28.7 per cent.

Company news

BHP Billiton Limited (ASX:BHP) has finalised an agreement with the Western Australian government that will increase the iron ore royalty paid to the state. The current rate is 5.625 per cent, which will rise to 6.5 per cent of sales revenue from July 1 next year and then to 7.5 per cent in 2013. In return, BHP will receive help to facilitate expansion of its Pilbara operations, according to the Australian Financial Review. BHP shares closed 2.22 per cent lower at $37.48.

A Newcastle plant operated by Orica Limited (ASX:ORI) will be shut down by the NSW environmental regulator according to a report by the Australian Financial Review. Two workers had been hospitalised yesterday due to the chemical plant leak. The announcement came on the same day as the Environment Protection Authority said it would prosecute Orica over a leak that occurred in August. Orica shares fell 3.41 per cent to close at $25.50.

Fairfax Media Limited (ASX:FXJ) says it's facing a difficult advertising market and trading conditions haven’t improved since the company announced its full year results in August.

Singapore Telecommunications Limited’s (ASX:SGT) subsidiary Optus says net profit for the six months to September 30 was $344 million compared with $345 million in the prior corresponding period.

Queensland rail company QR National (ASX:QRN) reaffirms its underlying earnings guidance for the year, but cuts it coal haulage guidance due to the Queensland floods.

Brambles Limited (ASX:BXB) says first quarter sales revenue rose 32 per cent. The pallet supplier has forecast full year underlying profit of up to $US1.1 billion.

Best and worst performers

All sectors finished the day in the red. The sector with the smallest losses was Consumer Staples, falling 39 points to close at 7,664. The worst performing sector was Financials Excluding Real Estate Investment Trusts, falling 168 points to close at 4,610 points.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX200 was JB Hi-Fi, lifting 2.22 per cent to close at $16.10. Shares in Charter Hall Group and Metcash also finished stronger.

The worst performing stock was Fortescue Metals Group, dropping 8.04 per cent to close at $4.69. Shares in Linc Energy and Murchison Metals also retreated.

Commodities

The price of gold is $US1,762 an ounce and Light crude is down $0.16 at $US95.58 a barrel.