SYDNEY, AAP – Stocks have had their worst day in more than four weeks on the Australian market as investors began believing warnings of higher rates in a year or two.

The ASX200 fell 1.81 per cent and its biggest category, financial stocks, shed 3.42 per cent.

The market’s biggest player, the Commonwealth Bank, lost 5.43 per cent to $98.06.

Deep Data Analytics chief executive Mathan Somasundaram traced the falls to rate rise estimates in the US.

“The market finally started to price in a rate rise,” he said of the ASX.

Rates have been low since last year as financial authorities guide economies’ recovery from the pandemic.

Wall Street plunged late last week after Federal Reserve official James Bullard said he saw rate increases beginning as early as next year to curb rising inflation.

Investors were already edgy after the central bank brought forward estimates of when rates will rise.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 133.6 points, or 1.81 per cent, to 7235.3 on Monday.

The All Ordinaries closed down by 139.1 points, or 1.82 per cent, to 7485.2.

Mr Somasundaram was interested in what Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell will tell US Congress on Wednesday as part of his regular appearances.

“The US Fed speakers will try and calm the market,” Mr Somasundaram said.

“It will be a fine line they have to walk, and be interesting to see whether the market gets spooked.”

Investors have piled in to the US dollar since the rate rise talk.

The Aussie dollar was buying less than 75 US cents for most of Monday.

Commodities trade in the US dollar, and Mr Somasundaram noted investors were selling such stock as the rising greenback made them expensive.

ASX energy and materials shares lost almost two per cent.

Miners Fortescue and Rio Tinto lost about 2.7 per cent each. BHP shed about two per cent.

Shares in industrials and utilities lost about two per cent.

Domestically, retail sales gained only 0.1 per cent for May due to the impact of Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown.

In April, spending climbed by 1.1 per cent.

NSW officials are yet to restrict movement as they monitor a virus outbreak from Bondi.

On the ASX, banks were hard hit by the prospect of rate rises that could stifle demand for their services.

Bendigo Bank lost 5.32 per cent to $10.33.

Bank of Queensland shed about five per cent to $8.78. Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has approved the bank’s $1.32 billion purchase of Members Equity Bank.

Investors may have weighed up the Commonwealth Bank’s sale of its general insurance business in their haste to offload the stock.

The bank has sold CommInsure General Insurance to the Hollard Group for more than $625 million.

The CommInsure General Insurance name will remain.

Building products supplier Boral will sell its North American business for $US2.15 billion ($2.9 billion).

The sale to Westlake Chemical Corporation will give Boral more surplus capital.

The company said it will assess how to give this capital to shareholders.

Boral shares closed up by 1.33 per cent to $6.87.

Biopharmaceuticals provider Starpharma plunged 9.41 per cent to $1.54 after it stopped selling its antiviral nasal spray in the UK.

A UK regulator has raised concern with claims about the product and COVID-19.

Starpharma is trying to resolve the dispute so it can continue selling the spray.

The Australian dollar was buying 74.85 US cents at 1727 AEST, lower from 75.41 US cents at Friday’s close.


* The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed lower by 133.6 points, or 1.81 per cent, to 7235.3 on Monday.

* The All Ordinaries closed down by 139.1 points, or 1.82 per cent, to 7485.2.

* At 1727 AEST, the SPI200 futures index was higher by five points, or 0.07 per cent, to 7160.


One Australian dollar buys:

* 74.85 US cents, from 75.41 cents on Friday

* 82.31 Japanese yen, from 82.94 yen

* 63.12 Euro cents, from 63.30 cents

* 54.23 British pence, from 54.32 pence

* 107.73 NZ cents, from 107.93 cents.