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Aust shares plunge wiping off AUD24bn

Staff Reporter | 10:03 PM |
Australian shares have spiralled downwards, wiping out around $24 billion in value and finishing at one-month lows.

That was as investors turned cautious ahead of key US employment data due out overnight.

The ASX 200 dumped 1.6 per cent to 4999, while the All Ordinaries sank 1.5 per cent to 5074.

The banking sector lost the most, with top lender Commonwealth Bank sinking 2.5 per cent, while Westpac lost 2.3 per cent.

Insurers also lost ground, with Insurance Australia Group tumbling nearly 4 per cent to $5.36 — its lowest close in a month. Meanwhile, Suncorp dropped 2.4 per cent.

For the week, the ASX 200 was down 1.7 per cent, its second consecutive week of losses, while for the quarter it sank 4 per cent.

The share market experienced a woeful start to the year on concerns of a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy, China, while volatility in commodity prices has continued to weigh on investor sentiment heading into the second quarter.

Miners recovered slightly though after Chinese manufacturing data beat analyst expectations.

BHP Billiton edged 0.7 per cent higher, while rival Rio Tinto gained 1.1 per cent.

China’s manufacturing sector shrank again in March, but the rate of contraction was the smallest in 13 months.

A key manufacturing index rose more than expected to 49.7 — but that was still slightly below the 50-point mark, which signalled expansion.

Share markets across the Asia-Pacific were also in a sea of red, with China’s CSI 300 dropping 1.3 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei sank 3.4 per cent.

The Australian dollar was slightly higher against the greenback and about 5:00pm was buying 76.6 US cents.

Against other major currencies it was buying 67.3 euro cents, 85.8 Japanese yen and 53.4 British pence. –ABC