Australian shares fell as much as 1.7 percent on Friday, posting their biggest intra-day percentage fall since Nov. 2016, with investors taking their cue from Wall Street’s overnight slump. By 1:57 pm(0357 GMT), the S&P/ASX 200 index stood at 5,730.60 points, 1.5 percent, or 87.5 points, lower than Thursday’s close. The index is on track to snap four-straight quarters of gains. Global equity investors are concerned about the rise in interest rates globally, as a slew of hawkish comments from central banks signalled the beginning of the end of a long phase of ultra-loose monetary policies.
“The sell-off clearly took its lead from the overnight markets in the U.S. where we saw some pretty substantial drops,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking for Argonaut Ltd in Perth. “The market has given back all of yesterday’s burst of energy, and we are looking at a very soft finish to the financial year in Australia,” said McGlew. The index had gained 1.1 percent on Thursday. Shares in Australia’s “big-four” banks fell between 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent.
BT Investment Management was the top loser on the index after it shed 6.6 percent to fall to its lowest in over two weeks. Real-estate stocks were another major drag on the index. Cromwell Property Group fell as much as 2.6 percent to its lowest in a month while DEXUS Property Group slipped as much as 3.3 percent, hitting a more than three-month low. Among other sectors, materials slipped 1.2 percent, shrugging off the rise in commodity prices over night.
BHP Billiton Ltd dropped 1.1 percent while South32 Ltd fell 2.2 percent after it suspended mining operations at Appin colliery. Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.4 percent snapping six sessions of gains. The miner’s shareholders approved sale of a suite of Australian coal assets to Yancoal Australia for $2.69 billion, ending a bidding war with commodities trader Glencore GLEN.L.
Among the gainers were Mineral Resources Ltd and Isentia Group Ltd which rose 7.8 percent and 1.4 percent respectively. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.8 percent, or 60.84 points, to 7,624.61. Telecom stocks and healthcare weighed on the index. Spark New Zealand Ltd fell 3.9 percent while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd shed 1.5 percent.