AUSTRALIAN STOCKS SLUMP, BANKS HIT: Here's what you need to know

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Australian stocks fell hard, dragged down by a sell-off among the major banks.

Today’s scoreboard:

  • ASX 200: 5,786.00 -64.52 -1.10%
  • All Ordinaries: 5,821.20 -60.99 -1.04%
  • AUD/USD: 0.7435 +0.0009 +0.12%

The local market dipped below the key 5800 point mark on the ASX200 with the banks making up the biggest part of the fall.

Westpac was down 2.3% to $32.16, the NAB 2.1% to $30.83, the Commonwealth almost 2% to $80.97 and the ANZ almost 1.3% to $29.16.

Macquarie, the fifth bank to be hit with a new bank levy announced last week during the 2017 federal budget, was down 1.2% to $88.80.

Shares in health insurers fell after official statistics showed margins falling in the private health sector. NIB shares closed 8.7% lower at $5.54 and Medibank Private 3.7% at $2.81.

Vita, which operates Telstra branded stores, dropped 30% to $0.90 after the company announced its revenue from the big telco would fall because of margin pressures faced by the industry.

Paint group DuluxGroup fell 0.8% to $6.78 despite posting a 14.2% rise in profit to $72.7 million for the six months to March.

The top stories:

1. Wages stuck at record lows, failing to keep up with inflation. According to latest Wage Price Index released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics earlier today, wages grew by 0.5% during the March quarter, leaving the year-on-year increase at 1.9%.

2. Confidence in the housing market took a big hit. According to the latest Westpac-Mi consumer sentiment survey released today, an increasing number of Australians think that it’s no longer the right time to buy a house

3. Budget 2017. Standard & Poor’s is sceptical about the Australian government’s budget surplus plan.

4. Keeping a watch on bank fees, charges, interest rates. Scott Morrison wants a task force to police bank mortgage rates. Also read: Research shows the banks will pass the bank levy on to customers.

5. The retail slump hits Oroton. The luxury retailer reported a continuing slide in sales in a “tough” retail environment. Its shares lost 19% to close at $1.085.

6. Australians fear that rich Chinese investors are buying up housing. Australians have a deep-seated fear that house prices are being driven up and property is being bought by foreign investors, according to a study of almost 900 people in Sydney.

7. Australia’s annual investment in LNG is about to drop to just 20% of its peak. UBS says Australia’s investment in gas projects is unlikely to exceed $10 billion annually in the future, down from the $50 billion peak reached in 2013.

8. The Australian dollar is the worst performing major currency this quarter. A combination of sliding commodity prices and shrinking bond yield spreads are pushing investors to look away from the Aussie.

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