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The sell-off continues for local shares on Wednesday with the ASX 200 shedding another 140 points or 2 per cent to 6726 at lunch. This follows a second successive day of 3 per cent declines for the Dow Jones and broader S&P 500 on Wall Street. Meanwhile our market has given back 5.7 per cent this week, with the ASX 200 hitting all-time highs as recently as last Thursday.

Falls have been across all sectors and rather indiscriminate. Over 180 of the top 200 stocks are in negative territory in the first few hours of trade. The IT sector is experiencing the largest percentage decline, down more than 3 per cent.

Elsewhere, the big four banks are taking roughly 20 points off the ASX 200 index. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is performing best, down 1.1 per cent while ANZ Bank (ANZ) has fallen the most, down 2 per cent. Other big names, CSL Ltd (CSL), Telstra (TLS), Woolworths (WOW) and BHP Group (BHP) are also weighing heavily on broader losses.

Supermarket giant, Woolworths is 3 per cent softer after reporting a 7.7 per cent decline in its first half net profit after tax to $887 million. The decline was mostly due to one-off costs from the restructuring of its hotel and drinks business, Endeavour Group and remediation for staff underpayments, which has increased to $315 million. WOW did experience sales growth across all its business segments, including struggling discount retailer Big W, which recorded 1H profit for the first time since 2016.

Other companies reporting profit results have been among the biggest improvers. Healius (HLS) is jumping 17 per cent after more than tripling net profit to $66.3 million. The medical and pathology centre operator also lifted the bottom end of its FY20 guidance range and is considering a sale of its medical centre division. Virgin Australia (VAH) is 6 per cent higher despite the airline facing a hit of $50- $70 million to 2H earnings from the coronavirus impact. Elsewhere, Nine Entertainment (NEC) is improving 7 per cent with underlying profit rising 5 per cent to $114 million. While broadcast TV and print advertising remained weak, its digital streaming business outperformed.

The Aussie dollar remain near 66 US cents. So far, 1.9b units have traded worth $4b with 224 stocks higher, 982 lower and 251 unchanged.

Published by CommSec