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The wild ride for shares continues with the ASX opening to heavy falls another sell-off on Wall St. The ASX 200 is now 123 points or 1.92% lower at 6272 to be at its worst levels of the session. After a near 10% decline last week, the Aussie market is looking at another weekly decline of 2.7% with the top 200 stocks now plunging 13% since hitting record highs just two weeks ago.

As has been the case of late, when the market has fallen losses have been broad based with nearly every sector in decline so far today. Banks have been particularly hard hit and are the main drag, wiping ~32 points from the ASX 200 index. The big four are down at least 2.6% while the National Bank (NAB) and ANZ Bank (ANZ) are both falling more than 3%. NAB, which has fallen to the lowest levels since 2012, is down 4% while ANZ is 3.6% weaker and around four year lows.

Retailers are among the worst performers with worse than expected retail sales numbers for January, falling 0.3% compared to flat spending anticipated by most economists and analysts. The bushfires were a big contributor to the slowdown while the coronavirus is likely to slow spending even further as the year progresses. Department store Myer (MYR) is falling 6% but the retailer is also weaker on a number of analysts cutting their price expectations for its stock. The losses are even more significant for homewares retailer Adairs (ADH) which is 8.7% softer.

Travel stocks are also being hit hard with Flight Centre (FLT) sliding 7.4%, Corporate Travel (CTD) is easing 5.3% but Webjet (WEB) is faring slightly better with a 3.2% decline. Airliner Virgin Australia (VAH) is slumping 14.3% while our national carrier, Qantas (QAN) is down 6%.

Modest improvements are being seen among consumer staples and healthcare. Medical diagnostics company, Sonic Healthcare (SHL) is lifting 4.7% on a broker upgrade. Woolworths (WOW) is leading the staples higher with a gain of 0.8% while agribusinesses Elders (ELD) and Graincorp (GNC) lift ~2% each.

The Aussie dollar remains above 66 US cents despite the weaker retail spending data. So far, 1.3b units have traded worth $3.5b with 264 stocks higher, 819 lower and 263 unchanged.

Published by CommSec