THE sharemarket has lost ground for a fourth straight day, slipping below 4100 points yesterday after a sharp slowdown in Chinese imports fanned concerns about global growth.
A day after Iluka Resources took a battering from shareholders for reporting poor second-quarter sales, the resource sector again weighed heavily, with BHP Billiton slipping 26? to $31.22 and Rio Tinto losing 44? to $56.10.
As investors ditched stocks considered risky, the big banks were also down and media shares performed poorly.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 20.3 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 4098, contributing to the sharemarket's longest losing streak in five weeks.
Trading started positively, even though shareholders were aware that Spanish 10-year bond yields had flared up again, touching a dangerous 7 per cent, a painful reminder that Europe's debt crisis has a long way to run.
But things turned sour when trade data showed China's surplus had hit a three-year high of $31.7 billion in June after import growth slowed much more than expected.
Import growth was just 6.3 per cent, which was half the previous month's level and below the consensus 11 per cent, while exports grew by 11.3 per cent, down from 15.3 per cent in May.
Chinese imports of iron ore the most important Australian export declined by 9 per cent in the month.
On a day when volumes were again extremely light, the falls in resource stocks were bound to weigh on the market.
"The weak import growth adds fuel to the argument of slowing investment and domestic activity within China," said IG Markets analyst Cameron Peacock. "[That] had a predictable negative impact on the share prices of our major miners."
Ten Network and Seven West Media touched record lows. Ten lost 0.5? to end the day at 47? after earlier brushing 46?. Seven West Media closed at $1.59 after hitting a low of $1.56, its cheapest since listing in July 2009.
Myer slumped 12.5?, or 6.9 per cent, to $1.675.
Among the banks, NAB lost 12? to $23.55, ANZ 16? to $22.34, CBA 34? to $53.44 and Westpac 4? to $21.56.