Australia’s share market is on course for its biggest loss since September after Wall Street markets sunk following US Federal Reserve concerns about its economy’s recovery.
The S&P/ASX200 index was lower by 162.4 points, or 2.39 per cent, to 6618.2 at 9am on Thursday.
The all ordinaries was down 172.9 points, or 2.44 per cent, at 6887.3.
The ASX200 sunk to its lowest level of the day, 6597.6, at about 8.30am.
All sectors were lower. Information technology took the biggest hit and was down 3.68 per cent.
The materials sector was down 2.8 per cent, while energy, financials and health, industrials and telecommunications were all down more than two per cent.
US markets closed lower after Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the bank will keep pursuing low interest rate policies until economic recovery is under way, and acknowledged the economy has faltered in recent months.
The bank after its latest policy meeting said hiring and economic growth had slowed, particularly in industries affected by the pandemic.
News was better in Australia. The Queensland government says Sydneysiders will no longer face mandatory coronavirus quarantine on arrival and road border checkpoints will be dismantled from February 1.
The decision should be a boost to tourism and travel.
Queensland shut the border to 35 local government areas in Sydney, Wollongong and the Blue Mountains amid the COVID-19 outbreak in December.
On the ASX, Fortescue Metals Group shipped no more iron ore in its second quarter than it did in the corresponding 2019 period as COVID-19 restrictions limit exports.
The Andrew Forrest-led miner said it shipped 46.4 million tonnes during its December quarter. Chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said staff were managing COVID-19 challenges, including border restrictions.
There was no change to full-year guidance of ore shipments of 175mt to 180mt.
Shares were down 3.29 per cent to $22.90.
Rio Tinto has rearranged its management ranks and says it wants to rebuild trust, particularly in Australia. Chief executive Jakob Stausholm has created a permanent chief executive role for its iron ore business, which chief commercial officer Simon Trott will take.
The role of chief executive Australia has also been created, and be filled by managing director Pacific operations aluminium Kellie Parker. Other appointments were also made.
Rio has been roundly criticised after it blew up sacred Aboriginal caves at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia last year to extract iron ore.
Shares were down 3.39 per cent to $113.08.
BHP lost 2.26 per cent to $44.03.
In banking, the big four each lost more than 2 per cent.
Market giant CSL shed 3.15 per cent to $266.51.
In the hardest hit sector, technology, Afterpay lost 4.94 per cent to $138.78.
Earlier in the US, the S&P 500 fell 98.85 points, or 2.6 per cent, to 3750.77. The Dow lost 633.87 points, or 2 per cent, to 30,303.17. The Nasdaq slid 355.47 points, or 2.6 per cent, to 13,270.60.
The Aussie dollar was buying US76.25¢ at 9am, lower from US77.36¢ at Wednesday’s close.