New home building work suffers biggest decline in 21 years; Webjet jumps on bullish prospect; ASX falls
Australian shares have fallen, dragged down by energy and mining stocks on weak commodity prices, while overnight Wall Street losses also weighed on sentiment amid rising fears of a global economic slowdown due to aggressive interest rate hikes.
The ASX 200 trimmed losses from a nearly 1 per cent fall at open and closed down 12 points or 0.2 per cent to 6,987.
By 4:15pm, the Australian dollar was up at 68.93 US cents.
World stocks tumbled overnight, as investors worried about continued US and European interest rate hikes, while data in the US showed a rise in job openings, fuelling fears the Federal Reserve has another reason to maintain its aggressive path of rate hikes.
Energy stocks were the top losers on the Australian benchmark index, shedding 2.9 per cent after oil prices slipped overnight on fears that fuel demand could soften as global central banks hike rates to fight surging inflation, and unrest in Iraq failed to dent the OPEC nation's crude exports.
Sector leaders Woodside Energy and Santos dropped 4.5 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.
Export-reliant miners slipped 1.5 per cent as iron ore futures tumbled amid renewed worries over COVID-19 curbs and steel output restrictions in top producer China.
Sector behemoths BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals shed between 1.1 per cent and 2.8 per cent.
Financials were up 1.1 per cent, paring losses made in early trade.
Among individual stocks, Australian gambling firm PointsBet fell nearly 12 per cent, its biggest drop in a month after reporting a widened net loss of $267.7 million in fiscal 2022, from a loss of $188.7 million a year ago.
Shares of retailer Harvey Norman fell 2.3 per cent to $4.23 after reporting a net profit loss of 3.6 per cent in FY22.
The company recommended a fully franked dividend of 17.5 cents per share.
Meanwhile, travel company Webjet jumped 8 per cent to $5.52 as the company said cash surplus from operations was expected to be more than $100 million in the first half of FY23.
The company said it's confident that earning margins would extend beyond pre-pandemic levels.
The Commonwealth Employment Service fell out of government favour in the late 1980s and was privatised in 1998, leaving many former staff mourning what was once possible.
Latest data from the Bureau of Statistics shows new home building work fell by 7.7 per cent in the June quarter and 9 per cent over the year. It was the biggest decline in 21 years.
Alterations and additions work fell 1.9 per cent in the quarter but was up 0.6 per cent on the year.
Building costs continued to skyrocket. Demand for building materials and tradespeople drove up building costs by 3.2 per cent in the June quarter.
There hasn’t been a bigger lift in costs since the introduction of the GST in 2000. Building costs are up 10.9 per cent over the year.
Meanwhile, over the year to June, construction costs grew by 9.7 per cent, which was the fastest growth since 1989, while engineering costs climbed by 8.2 per cent.
CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said in an analysis that the Australian construction industry was facing significant headwinds with the HomeBuilder policy stimulus in the rear-view mirror.
He said the sharp increase in interest rates and soaring building costs have lowered housing demand.
"Builders have reported a decline in new orders and activity is being hampered by ongoing supply-side constraints amid elevated COVID/influenza-related worker absenteeism and delays in supplier deliveries," he said in a note.
"Soaring building costs, acute labour shortages and wet weather on Australia’s east coast have weighed on the ability of builders to commit to new projects."
Overnight, US stocks closed lower for a third straight session as a rise in job openings fuelled fears the US Federal Reserve has another reason to maintain its aggressive path of interest rate hikes to combat inflation.
The benchmark S&P 500 index has tumbled more than 5 per cent since Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Friday reaffirmed the central bank's determination to raise interest rates even in the face of a slowing economy.
Labor demand showed no signs of cooling as US job openings rose to 11.239 million in July and the prior month was revised sharply higher.
A separate report showed consumer confidence rebounded strongly in August after three straight monthly declines.
"They have to weaken the labour market and how are they going to do that? They are going to jam rates and make things so expensive that people are going to pull back, demand is going to fall off, and people are going to get laid off," said Ken Polcari, managing partner at Kace Capital Advisors in Boca Raton, Florida.
"It locks them in even further."
The data increases the focus on the August non-farm payrolls data due on Friday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 308 points, or 1 per cent, to 31,791, the S&P 500 lost 44 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 3,986 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 135 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 11,883.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index also gave up earlier gains to be down 0.7 per cent, and MSCI's world equity index fell 1 per cent.
Oil prices tumbled overnight on fears that tighter monetary policy to fight inflation will dent the global economy, and soften fuel demand, and as Iraqi crude exports have been unaffected by clashes there.
Brent crude oil was up trading at $US100.15 a barrel, by 4:56pm AEST.
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