The Australian sharemarket closed some 0.8% lower today, with selling gathering momentum as nervous investors take some money off the table ahead of next week's federal budget.
At the 4.15pm (AEST) official market close, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index shed 45.6 points, or 0.83%, to 5,435.8, while the broader All Ordinaries index gave up 43.6 points, or 0.8%, to 5,419.1.
CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said the severity and size of the sell-off today was unexpected.
"We’re in a situation where a lot of the large cap headline stocks, particularly in the high-yield sector, such as banks and large retailers, are being seen as fairly fully valued," Mr Spooner said.
"It's possible that we're seeing a bit of defensive action in our market prior to next week's budget."
Investors are now looking ahead to tomorrow's employment numbers.
If jobs growth is significantly lower than forecast, the data could spark a sell-off in the Australian dollar and selling in stocks that depend on domestic consumer confidence, Mr Spooner said.