Australian benchmark index, the ASX 200, plunged 1.5% by the lunchtime.
Barring utilities, all 10 sectors were bleeding in red.
Mining stocks such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals fell sharply.
Energy firm AusNet Services surged 19% on the takeover offer.
Regional Express shares rose on mandating COVID-19 vaccination for frontline staff.
Australian shares have fallen sharply by the afternoon as a plunge in commodity prices and weak global cues dampened market sentiment. A slump in iron ore prices dragged blue-chip mining stocks such as BHP Group (ASX: BHP), Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) and Fortescue (ASX:FMG). Looming fear of corporate tax hike in the United States, concerns about COVID-19 cases, and possible shifts in the Federal Reserve's timeline for bond tapering left investors jittery.
Benchmark index, the ASX 200, was trading 111 points or 1.50% lower at 7,292.40, by the lunchtime. The index opened sharply lower today, tracking weak cues from Wall Street, which ended lower on Friday amid tax hike fears. The S&P 500 dropped 0.91%, while the Dow Jones tumbled 0.48%. The NASDAQ Composite closed 0.91% lower.
Why ASX 200 plunged today?
Investors turned cautious ahead of a highly anticipated US Federal Reserve Bank’s meeting this week. The central bank officials will announce a monetary policy statement on Wednesday which will give more clarity as to when the central bank will start tapering US$120 billion in a monthly bond buying program. Market experts expect the scaling back of economic stimulus to begin in November or December.
Back home, on the sectoral front, 10 of the 11 indices were trading in the red zone. The material sector was the worst performer with a 3.3% loss, owing to a sharp fall in iron ore prices. The price of iron ore has halved to US$100.80 a tonne on Friday, from US$230 per tonne in May this year. The price slumped nearly 22% last week as the Chinese government curbed steel production to slow its steel-intensive economy.
The material was followed by energy and tech sectors, which dropped over 2%. Among others, financial, telecom, consumer staples and A-REIT also witnessed a surge in selling activities.
Bucking the trend, the utilities sector was the lone gainer, rising 2.2% in an otherwise weak broader market.
Shares of aviation stocks such as Qantas Airways (ASX: QAN), Regional Express (ASX: REX), Air New Zealand Ltd (ASX: AIZ), Alliance Aviation Services Ltd (ASX: AQZ) and Sydney Airport Holdings (ASX: SYD), were in focus after the injection of a further AU$184 million into the cash-strapped aviation sector. The airlines are gearing up to resume operations as borders reopen.
On the COVID-19 front, NSW reported 935 new local coronavirus cases and four deaths in the past 24 hours. This is the first time in the last one month when the state’s case load has fallen below 1,000. Meanwhile, Victoria reported 567 new cases and one death on Monday, while Queensland detected one case in hotel quarantine.
Top gainers and losers
The top loser on the ASX pack was iron ore explorer Champion Iron (ASX: CIA), which tumbled 8.8% by the lunchtime. Some of the other notable losers were Nickel pig iron producer Nickel Mines (ASX: NIC), lithium miner Pilbara Minerals (ASX: PLS), resource company Lynas Rare Earths (ASX: LYC) and blue-chip iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group (ASX:FMG).
On the gaining side, energy player AusNet Services Limited (ASX:AST) topped the chart with a 19% gain. Some of the other top performers were alcoholic drinks retailer Endeavour Group (ASX: EDV), waste management firm Cleanaway Waste Management (ASX: CWY), consumer discretionary business G.U.D Holdings (ASX: GUD) and Australian bank Tyro Payments (ASX: TYR).
Shares in news
AusNet Services, Charter Hall, Transurban in focus today
Image source: © Stbernardstudio | Megapixl.com
First on the list is Australian energy company AusNet Services (ASX: AST). The share price of the electricity transmission network operator jumped 20% and hit a 52-week high after it received a takeover bid from Brookfield Asset Management worth AU$2.50 a share.
Iron ore explorer Pearl Gull Iron (ASX: PLG) is set to list on the ASX today after raising AU$4 million by issuing 20 million shares at 20 cents each in its IPO. Based in Perth, it is an exploration company targeting a premium iron ore development opportunity on Cockatoo Island, located in the northwest of Western Australia.
Shares of Charter Hall Long WALE REIT (ASX: CLW) and a Charter Hall Group (ASX: CHC) were trading lower on plans to acquire a stake in ALE Property Group. The CLW and a Charter Hall-managed trust on behalf of Host-Plus have agreed to acquire 50% stake in ALE Property Group, each through a consortium.
Shares of Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) have entered a trading halt, pending it releasing an
announcement related to fundraise. The company will raise a AU$4.2 billion via equities to support the acquisition of WestConnex, one of the world’s leading road infrastructure projects.
Shares of Regional Express (ASX: REX) gained nearly 1% after the airline made vaccinations mandatory for the frontline staff. Rex has directed its frontline staff to get fully inoculated against COVID-19 by November 1, adding that 90% of its staff was on track to meet the deadline.