ASX falls 2% on investor jitters

IT WAS another disappointing session for the local market which dropped 2% on concerns the US could scale back its stimulus program, while a report which indicated China’s manufacturing sector was slowing added to the negative sentiment.

Lauren Barrett

Broad-based losses were felt across the Australian market today, with investors taking cues from a weak session on Wall Street overnight where stocks dipped on the chance the US Federal Reserve could rein in its asset purchase program by the end of the year if the economy continued to improve.

Meanwhile, the Aussie dollar lost ground against the greenback, falling to its lowest point in close to a year.

With the US dollar rallying, a report from HSBC which showed China’s manufacturing activity dropped to a seven-month low in May didn’t assist the Australian dollar, which fell to US96.18c half an hour before the close of trading.

The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing index slid to 49.6 in May compared to 50.4 in April.

“The cooling manufacturing activities in May reflected slower domestic demand and ongoing external headwinds,” HSBC chief economist in China Hongbin Qu said.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped to an intraday low of 5058.6 points and finished 2% or 103 points lower at 5062.4 points.

Most sectors posted losses above 1%, with financials dipping 2.7% and telecommunications retreating 3.38%.

Technology was the hardest hit after losing 4.3%, while investors in mining stocks trod on the cautious side with basic materials falling 1.4%.

With a weak session for metals overnight, most of the miners plunged into the red.

Rio Tinto was down 2.1% to $A55.10 and BHP Billiton shed 1.1% to $34.88.

After a fairly stagnant week for Fortescue Metals Group, the iron ore miner slid 2.7% to $3.53.

Atlas Iron closed down 4.2% to 80.5c and Gindalbie Metals slipped 3.4% to 14c.

Gold stocks were mostly weaker, although Silver Lake Resources managed a 2.2% gain to close at 68.5c.

Meanwhile, junior Cauldron Energy gained 16.7% to 14c on no news while A-Cap Resources also climbed 16% to 5.8c despite no announcements being released.