ASX falls to start week, most sectors down

Australian shares are have fallen by about 0.6 per cent on average in early trade, with most sectors trading lower.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 31.2 points, or 0.59 per cent, at 5214.7 points after the first 30 minutes of trade on Monday.

The All Ordinaries index was 32.1 points lower, or 0.6 per cent, at 5292.9.

Energy stocks were the most affected, slumping 2.33 per cent.

The financials sector was also down early, dropping 1.26 per cent.

Westpac was trading 18 cents, or 1.17 per cent lower to $15.16 after deferring a decision on its interim dividend and posting a 70 per cent drop in first-half cash earnings.

The decline was due to costs from a money-laundering scandal and a surge in charges for bad loans due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The bank’s cash earnings fell to $993 million for the six months ended March 31, against $3.30 billion it earned last year.

Its rivals in the big four were also down. ANZ fell 12 cents, or 0.76 per cent, to $15.63, while the Commonwealth Bank was down 43 cents, or 0.73 per cent, to $58.41, and NAB lost 20 cents, or 1.24 per cent, to $15.94.

Macquarie Bank was trading lower by $2.56, or 2.64 per cent, to $94.36.

Insurance Australia Group maintained its 2020 guidance but has flagged “limited” scope to pay a final dividend in September amid uncertainty over the impact of the novel coronavirus.

Its price was down 18 cents, or 3.21 per cent, to $5.42.

The big miners were all down. BHP lost 34.5 cents, or 1.16 per cent, to $29.49, and Rio dropped $1.50, or 1.82 per cent, to $81.09, while Fortescue lost 21.5 cents, or 1.96 per cent, to $10.76.

Afterpay shares surged by 17.76 per cent to $34.34 after Chinese gaming and social media group Tencent Holdings bought a 5.0 per cent stake in the Australian credit provider last week.

That means Afterpay shares have lost only 0.41 per cent since January 1 despite widespread losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Its early performance also made information technology the best performing sector – up 3.22 per cent.

Goldminers were also among the minority of companies having a great day.

Newcrest gained $1.25, or 4.99 per cent, to $26.40, and Northern Star was up 53 cents, or 4.51 per cent, to $12.28, while Evolution gained 28 cents, or 5.93 per cent, to $5.00.

One Australian dollar buys 63.81 US cents at 1030 AEST, down from 64.60 US cents at Friday’s close.

The price of gold is US$1696.82 an ounce.

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