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The Australian market fell hard today as plunging oil and commodity prices crushed energy stocks and dragged BHP, the world’s biggest mining company, below $30 a share.

Oil prices, now at a five-year low, weighed the energy sector down 4.8%. BHP closed down more than 4% to $28.88, Fortescue Metals also down more than 4% to $2.55, while petroleum producer Senex Energy was down more than 17% to $0.24.

The banks were weaker, led by the ANZ at $31.88, down 1.61%.

The price of Brent crude oil fell to $66.22 while WTI futures fell to $63.05. And Wall Street was weaker with the S&P 500 down 0.73% to 2,060.31.

First, the scoreboard:

  • S&P ASX 200: 5,282.70 -90.01 (-1.68%)
  • All Ordinaries: 5,258.30 -90.64 (-1.69%)
  • AUD/USD: 0.8240 -0.0053 (-0.63%)

And the top stories on Tuesday:

1. The Australian dollar got crushed by the US and the Japanese Yen. The Aussie dollar at 0.8235 US is the lowest level since June 2010 and at a real risk of crashing to the May/June 2010 low of 0.8060. The NAB forecast the dollar could hit to 75 US cents.

2. A short-lived rise in business expectations. The huge jump in the NAB Business survey measure of conditions last month was the biggest on record but the latest report shows conditions back to where they were.

3. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of Santos, reflecting the pressure on earnings and cash flows from the rapid fall in oil prices. Its shares fell 7.2% to $7.70.

4. Qantas went for a ride today hitting $2.50, and up more than 6%, before ending the day marginally weaker at $2.38, about 0.42% down. Still this means the stock is up 85% since mid-October on improved business conditions, better than expected progress on restructuring, better seat yields and the prospect of lower jet fuel prices.

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