Taking cues from Wall Street, the Australian stock market opened on a negative note on Tuesday and is currently trading weak with energy, materials, financials and healthcare stocks suffering sharp losses. Industrials and utilities are also trading weak, while information technology and telecommunications stocks are trading mixed.
The Australian benchmark index S&P/ASX 200 is trading at 3,871, down 55 points from its previous close. The All Ordinaries index is down 53.80 points at 3,856.70
Materials stocks BHP Billiton and Orica are down 1.2% and 1.4% respectively while Rio Tinto is down 0.6% from its previous close. Energy stock Worleyparsons is trading nearly 5% down while Woodside Petroleum is trading lower by 1.2%.
Media stock Newscorp is down by over 3.5%. Diversified financials stocks Macquarie Group is trading 3.5% down and capital goods issue Leighton Holdings is down by 2.8%.
In the banking space, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, ANZ Bank and National Bank of Australia are trading lower by 0.3% to 1%.
In the currency market, the Australian dollar is trading at 0.7592 to the U.S. dollar.
Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand is trading modestly higher, while Japan and Korea are trading weak.
Wall Street ended on a weak note on Monday with stocks moving mostly lower during the session as traders chose to take profits after recent strong gains. The major averages all closed firmly in negative territory, although the tech-heavy Nasdaq posted a relatively modest loss.
Banking stocks bore the brunt of pressure on Monday after U.S. Bancorp, BB&T and Capital One revealed plans to sell common stock in order to raise proceeds to repay funds received under the government's financial bailout program.
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway's weak quarterly numbers also hurt sentiment to an extent. Berkshire Hathaway reported a first quarter net loss of $1.53 billion compared to a year-ago profit of $940 million. Berkshire Hathaway's results were hurt by a drop in revenues as well as huge investment and derivative losses primarily on write-downs on investments in ConocoPhillips.
In other news, President Barack Obama spoke earlier in the day, saying that a meeting with leading health care groups resulted in a pledge to reduce health care costs by $2 trillion over the next decade.
The president said that the health care groups have voluntarily come together to make an unprecedented commitment to cut the rate of growth of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year over the next ten years. Obama also urged Congress to work to reform health care by the end of the year, stressing that reform went beyond reducing costs.
The Dow fell 155.88 points or 1.8 per cent to 8,418.77 and the S&P 500 closed down 19.99 points or 2.2 percent at 909.24. The Nasdaq closed down only 7.76 points or 0.5 percent at 1,731.24.
Crude oil contracts opened the session significantly lower. The contracts recovered the majority of losses, unlike in the equity markets, where losses have accelerated. June crude oil closed at $58.53 per barrel, fractionally lower.
Stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region closed mostly lower on Monday, as traders cashed in on the recent strength in the markets. However, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index bucked the downtrend, edging up 0.2 percent.
The major European markets also pulled back off their recent highs, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closing down 0.6 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index fell 1.9 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
On Tuesday, trading could be impacted by the release of the Commerce Department's report on the U.S. trade deficit for the month of March. The deficit is expected to widen to $29.0 billion from $26.0 billion in February.
There are other key economic reports due to be released later in the week, including reports on retail sales, industrial production, and producer and consumer price inflation. Traders are also likely to keep a close eye on the weekly jobless claims report.
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