Billions wiped from ASX as ‘pandemic paranoia’ hits markets

Billions wiped from ASX as 'pandemic paranoia' hits markets

Australia’s sharemarket plunged again on Friday amid growing fears at the looming economic and human impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The ASX’s fall followed New York’s Dow Jones – which had a 4 per cent drop, its worst one-day fall in history – and other major local indices.

One US analyst described the tumble hitting the world’s stock markets as “pandemic paranoia”.

The Australian market finished the day down 3 per cent. It has now fallen more than 10 per cent in just six sessions, from its record closing high of 7162 last Thursday.

Even taking out last Friday’s modest decline, the ASX200 has shed 686.6 points, or 9.62 per cent, since Monday.

That puts it on pace for the worst weekly decline since a 734.8-point, 15.65-per cent decline in October 2008, at the peak of the global financial crisis.

The six days of losses mean Australian shares, represented by the All Ordinaries index, have lost more than $240 billion in value since their highs last week.

The rout also hit the dollar, which fell to a fresh 11-year low of 65.29 US cents in afternoon trade.

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US traders were particularly rattled by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirming a COVID-19 infection in California in a person who apparently had no relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient.

“It’s not a China thing, it’s becoming more global … in terms of the spread of the virus and its economic impact,” Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Robert W Baird in Milwaukee said.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now about where that impact lands … it’s also possible that forecasts are over-reacting to the downside.”

Nick Twidale, general manager of IC Markets in Sydney, took a glass half-full view, saying this week’s correction might looking like a buying opportunity in the medium term.

“Short term, we’ve probably got more downside,” said

“I think investors will look to sell any rallies.”

All sectors of the market were in the red on Friday, with major miners down up to 5.5 per cent and the big banks off 2.8 to 3.6 per cent.

The hardest hit companies in the top 200 during early trade were Gold Road Resources (-13.1 per cent), Harvey Norman (-9.1 per cent) and Afterpay (-8.8 per cent).

The only two companies in the top 200 that were ahead, albeit only marginally, were car retailer AP Eagers and miner South32.

The sharemarket turmoil will likely be a further dead weight on consumer confidence and in turn, a further negative for an already troubled retail sector.

Consumer confidence, as measured by the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan gauge, has been below its long run average since the turn of the year and is a pointer to future household spending.

“I’d be surprised if confidence went up,” ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said.

But Mr Plank said while COVID-19 is a factor, it had not erupted in Australia yet and the federal government’s responses had been “pretty strong”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already warned the coronavirus outbreak will have a big impact on the Australian economy.

“We can’t kid ourselves that the impact of the coronavirus globally, here in Australia, is not going to be significant,” Mr Morrison said.

But deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the economy was already sluggish before this summer’s bushfires and the virus outbreak.

“We have been calling for stimulus since the election,” Mr Marles told Nine’s Today program.

Economists expect next week’s national accounts for the December quarter will show another soft growth result.

-with AAP

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