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Australian shares slide amid Ukraine fears

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Australian shares slid nearly 2.5 per cent by mid-morning amid a broad-based sell-off over fears a full-scale Russian invasion would worsen the Ukraine crisis.

By 1200 AEDT on Thursday, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 179.2 points, or 2.49 per cent, to 7026.5 points — its lowest level in more than two weeks.

The All Ordinaries index tumbled 181.4 points, or 2.43 per cent, to 7292.5 points.

The risk-averse mood extended from Wall Street across markets in the Asia Pacific region after Ukraine announced a state of emergency and told its citizens in Russia to immediately come home.

The three major US indices slipped between 1.4 and 2.6 per cent overnight.

In the local market, every single sectoral index was deep in the red, but the bulk of the losses was sustained by mining, energy and technology shares.

BHP shares were the worst performers, down 6.5 per cent as iron ore prices slumped on concerns of demand prospects in China. The stock was also affected on account of turning ex-dividend on Thursday.

Rio Tinto was down 3.5 per cent at $115.65 after flagging rising costs at its full-year results late on Wednesday.

The world’s biggest iron ore producer reported its best-ever annual profit and dividend but warned its Pilbara iron ore costs would increase due to labour shortages in Western Australia.

Fortescue Metals was also trading 3.5 per cent lower.

Energy stocks fell sharply as oil prices hit 2014 highs on potential supply concerns if the Russia-Ukraine conflict escalates.

Woodside slid nearly six per cent to $27.23, while Santos was down more than 2.5 per cent.

The tech index hit its lowest level since June 2020, weighed by heavy losses in shares such as Block, down 8.5 per cent, and Xero, down 4.4 per cent.

Qantas shares fell more than three per cent to $5.18 after Australia’s national carrier widened its half-year loss and forecast a $650 million hit to second-half earnings due to Omicron.

Bucking the trend, CIMIC Group shares jumped nearly 34 per cent to $22 after it received a $1.47 billion offer from top shareholder Hochtief to buy out the remaining 21.4 stakes in the Australian construction firm.

The Australian dollar was buying 72.05 US cents at 1200 AEDT, compared to 72.33 US cents at Wednesday’s close.

– AAP

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