Australian shares slumped more than 1 percent on Friday with strong declines in the financial sector, after U.S. labour market data overnight clashed with the possibility of a more hawkish Federal Reserve. The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.4 percent, or 77.56 points to 5,681.2 by 0141 GMT. The declines were broad-based with all sectors in the red. “The U.S. market was down 1 percent so the Aussie markets are going to follow,” said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.
“We are going to have choppy markets for at least a month before the reporting season. We will probably have a run at the end of the month but that will come off at the end of the season.” Wall Street fell after data showed U.S. private employers had hired fewer workers than expected in June and applications for unemployment benefits last week increased for a third straight week, pointing to some loss of momentum in job growth.
Investors also turned their focus to a summit of G20 nations after this week’s test of a long-range missile by North Korea. Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the Australian index with the “Big Four” banks – Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group – all slipping more than 1 percent.
In other sectors, materials fell after Australia revised down the value of its resources and energy export earnings in the year to end-June 2017 by 4.6 percent, or nearly A$10 billion ($7.6 billion), due largely to falling prices for iron ore, its most valuable export. Mining giant Fortescue Metals Group declined as much as 4.9 percent to post its biggest intra-day percentage fall in six weeks.
Among the other big losers was biopharma giant CSL Ltd which fell 2.1 percent and Woodside Petroleum which was trading 2.2 percent lower. Bauxite miner Alumina Ltd rose as much as 2.5 percent to hit a near 2-1/2 year high before shedding all the gains.
Aluminium prices retreated in early Asian trading on Friday after recording strong gains overnight, with investors focusing on robust global supply. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 0.4 percent or 32.2 points to 7,597.43. Telecom company Spark New Zealand was the biggest drag, falling 1.4 percent. In other stocks, Xero Ltd fell 2.8 percent while a2 Milk Ltd slipped 1.5 percent.