SYDNEY, AAP – Investors lowered the Australian market and chose defensive shares as the spectre of more coronavirus lockdowns in Europe weighed on economic growth prospects.

Technology, travel, financial and energy shares were all sold heavily on Monday as investors followed the overseas lead in responding to Austria’s lockdown. Germany warned it may follow.

Travel shares had some of the biggest plunges. Flight Centre dived more than seven per cent to $18.34. Corporate Travel Management slumped about six per cent to $23.26.

ThinkMarkets analyst Carl Capolingua said ASX investors chose defensive shares such as consumer staples and healthcare.

“Just when you think the world is on top of things, there are problems again and that will subdue economic growth,” he said.

Financials continued to flounder. The category shed more than four per cent over the past two weeks.

The Commonwealth Bank and Westpac fell a little more than two per cent each in the latest session as the margin between short and long-term rates narrowed.

Mr Capolingua said short-term rates had increased on inflation expectations, while the Reserve Bank kept anchoring long-term rate expectations.

The central bank still does not expect to raise rates before 2024.

Mr Capolingua said banks liked to take short-term deposits, pay low rates of interest, and lend at much higher rates.

“So when the lower rates go up, the banks are forced to pay us more,” he said.

“They lend out at slightly higher rates but the narrowing of the gap erodes their margins.”

Japan joined nations such as the US in preparing to release oil from emergency stockpiles.

Oil prices have surged since economies started recovering from the pandemic.

The price of Brent crude oil slipped to $US78.77 per barrel on the prospect of more supply.

The tension over coronavirus infections in Europe was not apparent in Australia.

Visa holders will be allowed into Australia as early as next week, after the government cleared the way for skilled workers and students to return.

On the market, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 43.4 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 7353.1 points.

The All Ordinaries closed lower by 41.6 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 7688.3 points.

The big miners were all higher. BHP gained 0.36 per cent to $36.58. Fortescue was up 2.13 per cent to $15.80. Rio Tinto climbed 1.74 per cent to $91.82.

AMP Capital has beaten rival proposals to keep managing a wholesale office fund.

The AMP Capital Wholesale Office Fund allows corporate investors to put their money in Sydney and Melbourne office properties.

Shares were up 2.64 per cent to $1.16.

Energy group APA moved to possibly buy a battling operator in Tasmania.

Basslink, which owns and operates an electricity interconnector between Victoria and Tasmania, entered voluntary administration this month.

APA may work with the receivers after taking an interest in $99 million of debt.

Shares were up almost one per cent to $9.23.

Meridian Energy will sell its Australian business for $729 million.

Shell Energy will take on the retail business called Powershop Australia, while Infrastructure Capital Group will own assets including wind farms and hydro power stations.

Meridian shares were down 2.68 per cent to $4.35.

Shareholders have launched a class action against data analytics software vendor Nuix.

The investors claim they were misled on sales forecasts for the 2021 financial year. They have not asked for a specific amount of damages.

Nuix will defend the claim.

Shares were down 1.43 per cent to $2.75.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.51 US cents at 1719 AEDT, lower from 72.75 US cents at Friday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 43.4 points, or 0.59 per cent, to 7353.1 points on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed lower by 41.6 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 7688.3 points.

* At 1719 AEDT, the SPI200 futures index was up one point, or 0.01 per cent, at 7354 points.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 72.51 US cents, from 72.75 cents on Friday

* 82.77 Japanese yen, from 83.26 yen

* 64.32 Euro cents, from 64.13 cents

* 53.95 British pence, from 53.98 pence

* 103.47 NZ cents, from 103.42 cents.