New Zealand markets close in 4 hours 12 minutes

Aust stocks erase all gains since 2012

Derek Rose
Investors face falls on the ASX as more countries go into lockdown as the coronavirus spreads

The Australian share market has dived to an almost eight-year low as borders close and businesses shut in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 finished Monday down 270.6 points, or 5.62 per cent, to 4,546, while the All Ordinaries index plunged 290.2 points, or 5.98 per cent, to 4475.8.

The index has now dropped 36.8 per cent in the 22 trading sessions since February 20, and closed on Monday at its lowest level since December 6, 2012.

Some businesses have closed, as have state and territory borders along with stricter measures to control the pandemic.

"Another ugly day, mate," said CMC chief market strategist Michael McCarthy.

"Pressure across the board. But volumes weren't excessive, that's the only positive I can take out of it."

Every sector was down at least 2.9 per cent except for health care, which rose 2.6 per cent as traders snapped up shares of CSL.

The blood products company rose 4.2 per cent to $282.24, in what Mr McCarthy said was a sign that traders were hunting for blue-chip bargains.

"I think it's regarded as the bluest of blue chips," Mr McCarthy said of CSL, which recently surpassed Commonwealth Bank as Australia's biggest company by ASX-listed market capitalisation.

Property trusts sold off 11.2 per cent, with Goodman Group, Dexus and Mirvac all down between 11.2 and 12 per cent.

Real estate may be thought of a bit of a safe haven but investors were clearly worried about the impact an extended shutdown could have on the economy.

"Nowhere's safe anymore," Mr McCarthy said.

The financial sector dropped 10.2 per cent with all the big banks deep in the red.

Commonwealth fell 9.4 per cent to an eight-year low of $54.26, ANZ dropped 12.0 per cent to an 11-year low of $14.10, NAB dropped 11.4 per cent to a 23-year low of $13.88 and Westpac dropped 10.6 per cent to $14.10.

In the mining sector, BHP was flat at $27.03 while Rio Tinto dropped 4.0 per cent to $78.71 and Fortescue Metals fell 7.7 per cent to $9.55.

Goldminers were a glimmer of green as the price of the precious metal hovered just under $US1,500 an ounce.

Newcrest gained 4.5 per cent while Northern Star rose 2.3 per cent and Evolution climbed 0.8 per cent.

In the energy sector, Santos declined 4.3 per cent to $2.92 despite assuring investors it had a strong enough balance sheet to survive for years even if the price of oil stays at just $US25 a barrel.

Property developer Stockland, betting giant TabCorp, and health insurance firm NIB were among the latest to mothball earnings guidance.

Stockland was down 16.1 per cent at $1.795, Tabcorp shed 13.1 per cent to $2.18 while NIB gained 1.8 per cent to $5.05.

One Australian dollar was buying 58.01 US cents, down from 58.82 on Friday when the share market closed.

ON THE ASX:

* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index finished Monday down 270.6 points, or 5.62 per cent, at 4,546 points

* The All Ordinaries closed down 290.2 points, or 5.98 per cent, at 4,564.1 points

* At 1728 AEDT the SPI200 futures index was up 43 points, or 0.96 per cent, at 4,526 points

CURRENCY SNAPSHOT:

One Australian dollar buys:

* 58.01 US cents, from 58.82 US cents on Friday

* 63.63 Japanese yen, from 64.73 yen

* 53.93 euro cents, from 54.72 cents

* 49.56 British pence, from 50.47 pence

* 102.15 NZ cents, from 101.79 cents.