ASX falls, Flight Centre tumbles 7%, Miners gain: ASX closes 0.6% lower

The Australian sharemarket fell further in the afternoon session as major banks, energy, technology and travel stocks all weighed on the market today. At the closing bell, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.6 per cent or 43 points lower at 7,353.

Across the sectors, 7 out of 11 closed in the red. Technology tumbled 2.1 per cent, followed by energy, down 1.6 per cent, then financials, down 1.3 per cent. Meanwhile, materials lifted 0.4 per cent higher, followed by consumer staples and utilities, both lifting 0.2 per cent higher. 

Energy stocks led the broad declines, with Woodside Petroleum (ASX:WPL), Santos (ASX:STO) and Oil Search (ASX:OSH) all closing 1.9 per cent lower, while Beach Energy (ASX:BPT) closed 4 per cent lower. 

Travel stocks tumbled as Covid-19 jitters emerged around the globe. Flight Centre (ASX:FLT) dropped 7.3 per cent as the worst-performing stock, while Qantas (ASX:QAN) closed 3.7 per cent lower and Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) closed 5.9 per cent lower. Elsewhere, Europe-based property group Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX:URW), closed 4.7 per cent lower and US media giant News Corp (ASX:NWS) closed 2.7 per cent lower. 

Major banks took a hit today, led by Westpac (ASX:WBC) closing 2.2 per cent lower. Tech stocks also tumbled, with Afterpay (ASX:APT) closing 2.3 per cent lower and Xero (ASX:XRO) closing 3.2 per cent lower.

Despite gold miners like Evolution Mining (ASX:EVN) and Northern Star Resources (ASX:NST) closing 3.4 and 3.7 per cent lower, heavyweight miners lifted on higher iron-ore prices. Fortescue Metals (ASX:FMG) and Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) closed 2.3 and 2 per cent higher. Lithium miners Orocobre (ASX:ORE) and Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) also rose, both closing 4.4 per cent higher. 

Company news

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Meridian Energy (ASX:MEZ) has agreed to sell its Australian business Powershop to a consortium comprising of Shell’s subsidiary Shell Energy and Infrastructure Capital Group (ICG) for $729 million.

AMP Capital (ASX:AMP), owned by financial services provider AMP, will remain as the manager of its Wholesale Office Fund (AWOF) following a thorough review process to oversee its portfolio.

SkyCity Entertainment (ASX:SKC) has appointed Julian Cook from SkyCity as the chair-elect to replace current chairman Rob Campbell.

Regenerative medicine developer Mesoblast (ASX:MSB) has agreed to a US$90 million debt facility with US fund manager Oaktree Capital Management to pay off an existing debt facility and to help the company expand in the US.

Futures

The Dow Jones futures are pointing to a rise of 106 points.
The S&P 500 futures are pointing to a rise of 12 points.
The Nasdaq futures are pointing to a rise of 34 points.
The SPI futures are pointing to a fall of 46 points when the market next opens.

Best and worst performers

The best-performing sector was Materials, up 0.4 per cent. The worst-performing sector was Information Technology, down 2.1 per cent.

The best-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Nickel Mines (ASX:NIC), closing almost 8 per cent higher at $1.28. It was followed by shares in Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) and Orocobre (ASX:ORE).

The worst-performing stock in the S&P/ASX 200 was Flight Centre Travel Group (ASX:FLT), closing 7.1 per cent lower at $18.34. It was followed by shares in Corporate Travel Management (ASX:CTD) and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (ASX:URW).

Asian markets

Japan’s Nikkei has gained 0.1 per cent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng has lost 0.4 per cent.
China’s Shanghai Composite has gained 0.7 per cent.

Commodities and the dollar

Gold is trading at US$1848.28 an ounce.
Iron ore is 4.7 per cent higher at US$91.30 a ton.
Iron ore futures are pointing to a rise of 4.1 per cent.
Light crude is trading $0.12 lower at US$75.82 a barrel.
One Australian dollar is buying 72.53 US cents.