Shares slide again, $A hits six-month low

THE sharemarket tumbled yesterday on fresh fears about a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, with the dollar touching a six-month low against the greenback.

THE sharemarket tumbled yesterday on fresh fears about a possible Greek exit from the eurozone, with the dollar touching a six-month low against the greenback.

Investors were also spooked by predictions by the World Bank that China's economic growth would ease this year, and a downgrading of Japan's credit rating by Fitch.

At the close, the S&P/ASX 200 Index was down

54 points, or 1.3 per cent, at 4067 reversing Tuesday's advance.

The dollar traded as low as US97.42?, its cheapest since November. It also slumped against the yen, euro and pound.

Yesterday's sharemarket loss lopped off another

$16 billion in market value, taking the slide this month to about $100 billion.

The Australian market fell in line with Asian markets before a fresh round of debt crisis talks by European leaders overnight.

Patersons Securities associate director John Curtin said investors were expecting the leaders to express a consensus that they wanted Greece to stay in the eurozone.

"The market is moving from positive to negative commentary on the slightest hint of what will happen out of Greece because contagion is the big fear," he said.

"The prevailing view from Europe is that a deal will be negotiated to stay in the euro, but until that is sorted markets will be very flighty."

Fitch's downgrade of Japan's sovereign debt rating to A also weighed on the market, said IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu.

Fortescue was the biggest decliner among the top 50 stocks, giving up 24?, or 5 per cent, to $4.56 its lowest since January 9.

ANZ also closed at its lowest since January 9, shedding 41?, or 1.9 per cent, to $20.65.

Suncorp and QBE Insurance both lost 3 per cent, with Suncorp closing 24? lower at $7.55 and QBE off 39? at $12.29.

BHP Billiton dropped 39?, or 1.2 per cent, to $31.93 while Rio Tinto declined 61? to $56.28.

Gold major Newcrest lost 50?, or 2 per cent, to $24.74 as the gold price plunged. At the close of the Sydney session, the spot gold price was down $US29.36 at $1558.42 an ounce.

Shares in department store owner Myer Holdings sank to a four-month low of $2, for a loss of 17?, or 7.8 per cent. David Jones fell 3? to $2.17.

Fairfax Media (owner of The Age) ended the day unchanged at 65? after it said James Millar would replace Robert Savage on its board. The appointment came after several months of speculation that the company's biggest shareholder, Gina Rinehart, had sought a board seat.

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