The ASX200 marked the Black Friday sales with its third consecutive week of declines, dropping as much as 2 per cent after a fresh COVID variant of concern sent a shudder through global financial markets and local travel stocks.
The ASX 200 closed 1.7 per cent lower, down 128 points to 7,279.30, with all sectors in the red and only 14 stocks finishing the day higher.
Energy was the worst hit, down 4.6 per cent, with falling oil prices also playing a part as governments release emergency oil reserves to cool the market.
Woodside Petroleum dropped 5 per cent to $21.60, while Santos finished 4.8 per cent lower.
But the major trigger for the market rout was fresh pandemic worries as the UK banned some flights in response to a new variant of concern in South Africa and Australia warned it may follow.
Travel stocks took an immediate hit with Flight Centre closing more than 7 per cent lower at $17.14, Qantas dropped 5.5 per cent to $5, while Webjet and Corporate Travel also dropped more than 5 per cent.
“It’s a scary headline” about the virus variant, so it may have caused a knee-jerk reaction, said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG Markets told Bloomberg.
He added that the Thanksgiving holiday meant there was a “wall of buyers missing” and the thin markets made for more pronounced moves.
But the futures market was suggesting Wall St would also take a hit with US Dow Jones futures suggesting a 450 point, or 1.3 per cent, drop when it opens tonight.
The miners also fell despite iron ore stretching its rally to a fifth straight session on Thursday.
Major miners BHP dropped 1.5 per cent, Rio Tinto was down 2.2 per cent while Fortescue dropped 3.8 per cent.
AMP was the worst hit among financial stocks, dropping more than 4 per cent to a low of $1 after flagging a $234 million additional impairment charge for its fiscal 2021.
ANZ Group shares barely budged despite ASIC announcing it will sue the bank over home loan referrals.
Appen shares took the biggest hit, crashing 19 per cent to $9.45 after Macquarie raised the prospect of a downgrade based on Appen’s major tech customers becoming less reliant on its services.
Wealth Within’s chief analyst Dale Gillham pointed out that the share market has barely moved in weeks ahead of the rout – up just 9 points over the previous 26 trading days to this Thursday.
“I would not be surprised to see the All Ordinaries Index fall away up to 5 per cent over the next few weeks before rising up into February,” he said.