Virus fears weigh on market: ASX closes 1.4% lower

Market Reports

by Anna Napoli

It has been a negative day of trade for the Australian sharemarket with the local bourse sinking below 7000 as investors sold off on worries about the coronavirus. 9 out of 10 sectors were lower, led by Energy, which lost 2.9 per cent. Miners weighed on the market amid fears of declining Chinese demand. Fortescue declined by over 7 per cent while BHP and Rio Tinto were both down over 3 per cent. NRW Holdings also shed almost 8 per cent after announcing an employee fatality at the Roy Hill iron ore mine in the Pilbara. A number of travel stocks plummeted on virus fears with Qantas falling almost 5 per cent.  UBS also cut the airline's earnings per share estimates. Webjet was todays worst performer dropping over 13 per cent.
Ansell bucked the downward trend surging to a record high of $31.83 as investors snapped up shares in the glove maker.

The S&P/ASX200 index

At the closing bell the S&P/ASX 200 index closed 96 points lower or 1.4 per cent down to finish at 6995.

Futures market

Dow futures are suggesting a rise of 132 points.
S&P 500 futures are eyeing a lift of 15 points.
The Nasdaq futures are eyeing a jump of 54 points.
And the ASX200 futures are eyeing a 68 point dip for tomorrow morning.

Local economic news

Australian business confidence dropped to a six and a half-year low  in December according to NAB’s monthly business survey. Confidence fell two points to a net balance of minus two in the lowest since mid-2013, while conditions slipped one point to three points. Both remain well below their long-run averages.

Company news

Modern day layby company Splitit Payments (ASX:SPT) today on news the company has partnered with global payments company, Stripe. The partnership enables rapid global scaling to meet growing demand for Splitit’s card-based instalment solution globally. Splitit Payments (ASX:SPT) shares closed flat at $0.66.

Shares in travel company Webjet (ASX:WEB) fell almost 14 per cent today on fears surrounding the coronavirus and a downgrade from Morgan Stanley. The investment bank downgraded the company) to underweight from equal weight. The bank is concerned about the threat Google poses to Webjet’s earnings outlook following recent updates from other online travel retailers. Morgan Stanley has reduced the target to $10.00 from $12.40. closed 13.9 per cent lower at 12.37.

An employee of NRW Holdings (ASX:NWH)subsidiary DIAB Engineering has died after a serious accident at the Roy Hill iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. NRW and DIAB are assisting Roy Hill and relevant statutory authorities with the investigation into the accident.

Best and worst performers

The best performing sector was healthcare adding 0.4 per cent while the worst performing sector was energy, shedding 2.9 per cent.

The best performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Costa Group (ASX:NSR), rising 4 per cent to close at $2.86. Shares in Saracen Mineral Holdings (ASX:SAR) and Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) followed higher.

The worst performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Webjet (ASX:WEB) dropping 13.9 per cent to close at $12.37. Shares in Orocobre (ASX:ORE) and Oil Search (ASX:OSH) followed lower.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1,581 an ounce.Iron ore futures fall of 2.3 per cent
Light crude is US$0.31 down at US$52.83 a barrel.
The Australian dollar tumbled to its lowest intraday level since November as worries about the coronavirus sent investors fleeing to safe haven assets. One Australian dollar is buying 67.63 US cents.