Sharp falls in Rio, BHP drag market lower
The sharemarket has closed sharply lower, dragged down by losses among the big miners.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index was down 80.2 points, or 1.6 per cent, at 4924.4, while the broader All Ordinaries was down 82.3 points, or 1.65 per cent, at 4911.3.
Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto slumped more than 4 per cent due to weaker commodity prices.
"We've just seen another significant decline in commodity prices in the Asian time zone," CMC Markets chief market analyst Ric Spooner said. "So, in market terms, we've got a bit of a capitulation going on."
He said prices for copper and oil could be falling because markets expected supply would outstrip demand. Supply capacity had been improved but demand was moderating on concerns about the strength of growth in China and a patchy recovery in the US.
"With commodity markets you only need to go from a situation where there's a bit of a supply deficit to a bit of a supply surplus to have quite a significant impact on prices," Mr Spooner said.
BHP Billiton fell $1.41 to $30.65 as it announced changes to its management team, including the departure of Mike Yeager as head of its petroleum division.
Rio Tinto fell $2.52 to $52.07. Fortescue fell 29¢ to $3.43 despite saying it was confident of meeting its full-year production targets.
Mineral sands miner Iluka Resources shed 58¢ to $8.71 after announcing further production cuts due to weak demand.
Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum reversed $1.22 to $33.86 after it said it was confident of meeting full-year targets. Goldminer Newcrest lost $1.21 to $15.89.
Wesfarmers was up 33¢ at $42.22 after sales at its Coles supermarkets rose 6.4 per cent in the quarter.
Telstra eased 3¢ to $4.79 despite winning a $1.1 billion Department of Defence contract that will lead to 350 jobs being created.
Bond futures were stronger following sharp falls on local and Asian sharemarkets.
JPMorgan interest rate strategist Sally Auld said bond futures moved higher amid weakness among stocks, and prices were likely to continue to gain ground over the next few weeks.
The June 10-year bond futures contract was trading at 96.810 (implying a yield of 3.190 per cent), up from 96.745 (3.255 per cent) on Wednesday. The three-year contract was at 97.320 (2.680 per cent), up from 97.270 (2.730 per cent).